Photo of the Week
January 12, 2003

     Many people and all Zonians have visited and seen the ruins of the majestic old Fort San Lorenzo on Panama's Atlantic Coast.  This old Fort has much history and is a great place to visit.  I use to treasure and relic hunt the swamps and waters below the old fort.  I often wondered what the old town of Chagres was like while I sat sifting the sand looking for a hopeful gold coin or nice trade bead.  Well, I recently came across two wonderful old colorized post cards from the early 1900's showing what the old town of Chagres looked like.  When I searched the old town area in modern times, it was nothing but mangrove swamp and jungle.  Many a good coin, bottle and relic have been found in the area of this historical old town.  

   This week's "Photos/Image of the Week" shows the two colorized post cards and a map showing the old layout of the for and town.

   This is what the old town of Chagres looked like for hundreds of years since the castle of San Lorenzo was erected by the engineer Juan Anonelli, by order of Philip II, of Spain, until the fort and town was no longer needed.  Here is a excerpt from the great book, Old Panama and Castilla Del Oro, by Dr. C.L.G. Anderson.

"As soon as the Panama Railroad reached Gatun, in 1851, the stream of gold-hunters turned from the mouth of the Chagres to Limon Bay; and as the railroad gradually penetrated the jungle, the river traffic became less.  When the railroad was completed in 1855, the fare across via the Chagres River was about twenty-five dollars in gold.  Passengers were required to pay two dollars a head to the Isthmian Government for the privilege of passing from sea to sea via the railroad".

Another downfall of the old town of Chagres and the other Chagres River towns were the criminals and rough characters that the officials were unable to control.

The days of the old town of Chagres were over.  The jungle moved in and took over the fort and vacant town.  Erosion from the Chagres River and Caribbean Sea ate away at the old shore lines.

When I explored the old town of Chagres site, much of it had been eroded by the river and sea.  I found many old relics within the shallows of the area that was once the old town. (See here). Although it was rough probing and digging, we found many nice vintage bottles on what was left of the dry, but swampy land.

See the map below.

This 1911 photo was submitted within a couple of hours after posting this week's presentation.  This photo is very interesting as it is dated 2-22-11 which proves that the old town of Chagres actually was still going strong after the turn of the century.  Photo submitted by Bill Fall.

Isn't this history stuff great??!!

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