Calhoun name change opponents turn to fake news

In the big scheme of things, renaming Lake Calhoun is pretty small potatoes, so the pushback after Hennepin County signed off on restoring the name to Bde Maka Ska is increasingly stunning.

You could call it Joe the Lake and it’ll still be the same lake. Nobody is required to change any corresponding names so it doesn’t really cost nearby businesses a dime.

So, again in the big scheme of things, the language being used by the anonymous group, Save Lake Calhoun is oddly intense.

It took out a half-page ad in today’s Star Tribune to declare a “shocking” revelation that the lake wasn’t named after the noted racist John C. Calhoun, but after “Lt. Calhoun of the U.S. Army.”

This is not a new claim, however.

It’s the language to describe those who favor a name change that is eye-opening. The group repeatedly refers to them as “extremists.”


Extremists blow up trains and marketplaces. It’s not a word one typically hears when referring to those who take part in the civic process.

From all indications, the assertion that the lake was named after “a Lt. Calhoun” is probably wrong. One clue is the fact that nobody seems to know the lieutenant’s first name.

Another comes from a 2015 Steve Brandt blog post in the Star Tribune in which a search of historical records shows no such person.

And what of the other assertion made by the Tribune’s mistake-prone editorial writer — that the lake was named not after the famous Calhoun, who was the secretary of war who decreed that a string of forts be built on the western frontier, including Snelling as the northernmost? The anonymous opiner posited that the lake was actually named after a Lt. Calhoun.

But the editorialist offered no proof, nor have those who have seized on this as evidence against the renaming sought by the more than 4,000 people who have signed an online petition. Two specialists in Fort Snelling at the Minnesota Historical Society stand by the South Carolinian politician as the lake’s namesake. One of them, Matt Cassady, searched officer rolls for the regiment that built and garrisoned the fort for its first 10 years and found no Lt. Calhoun.

Brandt researched the claim and found that the writer got the happenings of the 1890 action wrong. The editorial writer, it would seem, was confused about who this Calhoun guy was.

He’s the southern politician and vice president who defended slavery and southern values from the slings of northerners.

The only mystery here is who is behind