WHAT IS IN A NAME? Is it LAKE L’ HOMME DIEU or LAKE LE HOMME DIEU?
The facts surrounding the naming of our lake have been elusive. There was a publication from 1965, “How The Lakes Were Named” by Lorayne Larson. Her publication began by sourcing a book, “Geographical Names In Minnesota”, by Dr. Warren Upham, in which he writes that the lakes were named by an early homesteader for his two friends in West Point Academy. The theory was disproven when a brochure called “Cheap Land and Good Home Sites in Douglas County”, and an accompanying map dated 1846 was discovered. That map clearly named L’ Homme Dieu and Carlos; this was before the West Point cadets described by Dr. Upham were even born. And there is another map dated in 1857 that also named the lakes.
Another theory involves the L’ Hommedieu name. It has been documented that Benjamin L’ Hommedieu, was the first of his family to arrive in America in 1680. He was driven out of France with the rest of the Hugenots for refusing to renounce his religious beliefs. The family name was actually Gilbert, but one of Benjamin’s ancestors engaged in the battle of the Crusades and did some valiant deeds. He was knighted by Henry of Navarre, and this knighted name was given to him because he was a “man of god”.
Stephen Saterlee L’ Hommedieu was the great-great-grandson of Benjamin, and came to Minnesota as a land surveyor. A granddaughter of Stephen’s, Marie L’ Hommedieu shared a story with Florence E. Gesser, which was published in the Park Region Echo in July of 1952, and was later reprinted in an article from The Press in July of 1991. The story goes that the people of Alexandria had just built a Catholic Church and ran out of money before a bell could be purchased. Stephen Satterlee L’ Hommedieu donated a bell, and the lake may have been named after him in gratitude. Since he lived from 1806 – 1875, that puts him in the time span in which the lakes were named.
However, our local resident, historian, author, former Douglas County Historical Society (DCHS) Executive Director, and current DCHS Research Library Coordinator, Barbara Grover, has been researching the naming of the lake for many years, and she has only located a catholic church in nearby Millerville with a bell from that time period. She has plans to investigate the forger of that bell, and other leads as well.
So, we do not yet have any definitive answers as to how Lake Le Homme Dieu / Lake L’ Homme Dieu was named, but we do note that the family name was spelled L’ Hommedieu, but that the lake has also been given the spelling of its’ native France, Le Homme Dieu.
Jackie Bloom Hogshire