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John Geronald Claybourn is Born

Today in Masonic History John Geronald Claybourn is born in 1886.

John Geronald Claybourn was a civil engineer.

Claybourn was born on May 23rd, 1886 in Albert Lea, Minnesota. He graduated from high school in Albert Lea. He went on to attend the University of Minnesota for three years in their College of Engineering.

Claybourn had an uncle and cousin who worked on the Panama Canal. By 1914 he had joined them working in the dredging division of the Panama Canal. He worked his way up through the ranks from junior engineer to superintendent of the division.

In 1923, two years after becoming superintendent of the dredging division he wrote a letter to the Governor of the Panama Canal Zone. In the letter he recommended that the dredging shops be moved to Gamboa, Panama.  He gave two reasons, the first was the danger of slides in the Cut, and the second was due to increased ship traffic going to the Canal. Three months later he was proven correct when two ships collided on the way to the canal. One sank and two sailors were killed.

The following year, Claybourn drew up plans for the new community in Gamboa. The plans included housing for members of the dredging division. It also included other amenities such as a country club which Claybourn would manage later in life.

It wasn’t until 1936 that the dredging division began moving into the new town that Claybourn had created. Over the next year the population grew to 1,419. By 1942 he reached its peak of 3,853.

Claybourn served as President of the Gamboa Civic Council from 1937 to 1948. His successor as President described him by stating “He was known as John 'God' Claybourn by his employees. In designing the layout of the town he made it so that he could travel from his residence to his headquarters without STOP signs. He played a key role in the design and materials selection for the residences.”

During his time working on the Panama Canal Claybourn worked on various projects in countries around the Panama. This included in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and as far north as Florida. After World War II he worked to rebuild transportation in Burma.

Claybourn passed away on June 26th, 1967.

Claybourn was a member of Western Star Lodge No. 26 in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

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