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RALPH OSBORN 1874-1932


District Grand Master (Canal Zone), 1918-1932


From Proceedings, Page 1932-204:

R.W. Brother Osborn was born in Columbus, Ohio, February 26, 1874, and died at Ancon, Canal Zone, November 23, 1932.

Brother Osborn was educated in the public schools of Columbus, Allen's Academy, Chicago, Lake Forest Academy, of Lake Forest, Illinois, and the Pennsylvania State Nautical Training Ship Saratoga. After graduation he was appointed a junior officer with the Ward Line and from then on followed the sea for the rest of his life. He went to the Canal Zone in 1911 as a pilot and at the time of his death was senior pilot of the Canal. During the world war he was attached to the navy with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

He took his Masonic degrees in Sojourners Lodge in 1913, was its Master in 1916 and 1917, and was appointed District Grand Master (Canal Zone District) by M.W. Leon M. Abbott in 1918, succeeding R. W. Herbert A. White, who had resigned on leaving the Zone.

Brother Osborn was a Past High Priest of Cristobal Royal Arch Chapter No. 2, and a member of Canal Zone Council, No. 1, Royal and Select Masters, and of Canal Zone Commandery No. 1, Knights Templar. He took an active and leading part in the development of the Scottish Rite in the CanaI Zone, presiding over several of the bodies and being coronetted an Honorary Member of the Southern Supreme Council at Washington in 1925.

As District Grand Master, R. W. Brother Osborn served the Grand Lodge with distinguished ability and success. He had a rare capacity for leadership. He was able to win the respect, the obedience, and the affection of those under his Masonic authority to a very remarkable degree. The affairs of the District were always conducted smoothly, efficiently and promptly. We all admired the official and loved the man. His going leaves a sad gap in our official circle.

From Proceedings, Page 1932-295:

In the passing of R.W. Brother Osborn the Masonic Fraternity in general and the Craft in the Canal Zone in particular have lost one who served Masonry well.

Brother Osborn was born in Columbus, Ohio, February 26, 1874, the son of Frank and Phoebe (Andrews) Osborn, both also natives of Columbus. He attended the public schools of that city, Allen's Academy of Chicago, Illinois, and later Lake Forest Academy of Lake Forest, Illinois. After finishing the course of instruction in the latter school he chose the sea as a career. He spent two years on the Pennsylvania State Nautical Training Ship Saratoga, after which he shipped with the Ward Line as a junior officer. He then saw service with the American and Red Star Lines. He was with the latter line for 16 years, serving in positions from fourth officer to that of Master of the steamship St. Paul. He then transferred to the Alaska Steamship Company, and for several years was on the run between Seattle and Alaska.

During the Spanish-American War he served as Lieutenant on the U.S.S. St. Paul, which at that time was under the command of Captain Sigsbee, U.S.N., of Maine fame. During the World War he served as Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, being in command of vessels in the transport service and later acting as Intelligence Officer of the Port of Cristobal. At the conclusion of the war he entered the U. S. Naval Reserve and at the time of his death held the rank of Lieutenant Commander in that service.

He came to the CanaI Zone in 1912 as a pilot, and except for the period of service in the Navy during the World War served in that capacity up to the time of his death. He piloted the first commercial ship to transit the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, the American Hawaiian Steamship Arizona, on April 15-16, 1914. At the time of his death he was the senior pilot of the Panama Canal.

From the moment he became a Mason Brother Osborn took an intense interest in all things Masonic. He received the degrees in Sojourners Lodge in Cristobal in 1913 and served as Master of his Lodge in 1916 and 1917. He was a member of Cristobal Chapter No. 2, Royal Arch Masons, serving as High Priest in 1927: He was also a member of Canal Council No. 1, Royal and Select Masters, and of Canal Zone Commandery No. 1, Knights Templars. In the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite he was a member of all the Panama Canal Bodies, under the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A. He served as Dispensation Master of The Panama Canal Chapter of Rose Croix in 1915, as Master of The Panama Canal Lodge of Perfection in 1920, and as the Master of The Panama Canal Consistoty in 1924. He was invested with the rank and decoration of Knight Commander of the Court of Honour in 1921 and received the 33d degree in The Supreme Council in Washington, D. C., on October 23,1925. He was also a member of Abou Saad Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S., of Balboa, Canal Zone.

On February 18, 1918, he was appointed District Grand Master for the Canal Zone District by Most Worshipful Leon M. Abbott, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts. He was reappointed by each succeeding Grand Master and occupied that position at the time of his death. For a period of nearly fifteen years he fulfilled the duties of that position with marked ability, and exercised a wise supervision of the Craft that, combined with his rare personal qualities, firmly established the prestige of the District Grand Lodge in the Canal Zone and the Republic of Panama, and aided in building the Masonry of the Canal Zone into a splendid, harmonious organization.

In all of his relations with his fellow men his presence radiated authority and his voice gave comfort and assurance to all within its sound. He was captain of the ship whether on the bridge or presiding in the East. His decisions were prompt and decisive, yet withal well considered and never arbitrary. In spite of this decisiveness he was the friend of all he met, both high and low. He was ever ready to meet his fellow man upon the level and to act with him upon the square. He had a keen sense of humor and never missed an opportunity to enliven those about him with his dry humor and timely wit. As a citizen he took a keen interest in the government of his country and was ever abreast the times in things political, civic, and social.

Brother Osborn was taken acutely ill and entered Gorgas Hospital on Saturday, November 19, 1932, two days before the beginning of the official visitations to the particular Lodges in the Canal Zone District. At his urgent request the visitations were begun without him under the direction of the Deputy District Grand Master, but on the night of the second visitation Brother Osborn became worse and died at three o'clock the following morning, Wednesday, November 23, 1932.

"When a great man dies,
For years beyond our ken
The light he leaves behind him lies
Upon the paths of men."

James E. Jacobs
Ernest C. Cotton
Edward C. Blessing

From Proceedings, Page 1933-21, in Grand Master's Address:

You will recall that in my December Address before Grand Lodge I conveyed to you the sad news of the death of R.W. Ralph Osborn, District Grand Master for the Canal Zone. After the funeral ceremonies had been conducted by our sorrowing Brethren of the Zone, his remains were placed in a vault until such time as Mrs. Osborn could arrange to come north and lay him to rest in the city of his birth.

Escorted to the boat by R.W. Lewis B. Bates, then the Deputy District Grand Master, Mrs. Osborn sailed from the Canal Zone on January 15th, arriving in New York on the 23rd and leaving at once for Columbus, Ohio, where the last services were to be performed.

Thinking it would be pleasing to the family, I wrote the Grand Master of Ohio, M,W. Simeon Nash, asking that he be so kind as to arrange with some Columbus Lodge to conduct a Masonic Burial Service for R.W. Brother Osborn. Not only was the Grand Master willing to accede to my request) but advised me he proposed to summon the Grand Lodge of Ohio in Emergent Communication for the express purpose of conducting in person the funeral services for our distinguished Massachusetts Brother.

This gracious and most unusual offer was gratefully acknowledged by me, and waiving all other engagements, I proceeded to Ohio, accompanied by R.W. E. Lester Swett, District Deputy Grand Master for the Twenty-fifth Distict, for the purpose of attending the services.

On arrival, I was at once waited upon by M.W. Brother Nash, to whom I expressed the profound appreciation felt by the Brethren of Massachusetts for his generous and fraternal offer to conduct the funeral services. He also arranged for my meeting at the Masonic Temple the brothers and nephews of R.W. Brother Osborn, as well as Mrs. Osborn herself. To her, I voiced the affection and love in which her distinguished husband was held by his Brethren of Massachusetts, and told of their tender sympathy in her bereavement.

The Grand Lodge of Ohio was then opened, your Grand Master received with full ceremonial honors, and requested to address the Brethren, following which I presented to M.W. Simeon Nash the Henry Price Medal. A large number of Army officers who were members of the Fraternity were present in Grand Lodge to honor their departed comrade. From the Temple, we repaired to the funeral chapel where the Grand Lodge conducted Masonic services, during which your Grand Master was invited to deliver the eulogy. From the chapel, all proceeded to the cemetery in a pouring rain, where, under a marquee, the local Post of the American Legion conducted its services, followed by the sounding of "Taps" by a bugler and three volleys fired by an escort of United States troops from the local fort. This completed the ceremonies, and after bidding farewell to Mrs. Osborn, the sad day was concluded, and we returned on the night train for Boston.

I have recited in considerable detail the main events of the day, particularly those bearing on the generous and true fraternal spirit so constantly in evidence on the part of M.W. Brother Nash and the officers of his Grand Lodge, in order that you may appreciate the kindness and sympathetic understanding shown by them to our departed Brother, and I knew I spoke your minds when I assured the Grand Master of Ohio that his fraternal act would never be forgotten by the Brethren of Massachusetts.

Distinguished Brothers