Union Reservoir

Calkins Lake, also known as Union Reservoir, photo courtesy Visit Longmont.

The family a Weld County lake is named after is weighing in against a proposed change that the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board has been wrestling with for the past two months.

Originally known as Calkins Lake, seven miles west of I-25 near Longmont, the body of water is more commonly known as Union Reservoir. That’s how it is identified in federal maps, Google maps, on signage at the reservoir and in state water court decrees.

The federal Board on Geographic Names in October asked the state Geographic Naming Advisory Board to make the more common name the official name as well. That move is backed by the Union Reservoir Company and the city of Loveland. Weld County has taken no position on the change. 

There is also nearby a second, smaller body of water, also officially known as Calkins Lake. Locals refer to it as Jim Hamm Pond, part of the Jim Hamm Nature Area. 

But Melissa Calkins, president of the Calkins Family Association, wants to ensure the larger lake continues to bear the Calkins name.

In an interview with Colorado Politics, Calkins explained the family first came to America in 1640. Over the course of the following several centuries, the family spread its branches north and west as the nation grew.

According to family history provided by Melissa Calkins, the person for whom the Weld County lake is named was Carlton Chase Calkins, who was born Oct. 4, 1847 in Ballston Lake, NY. He obtained a degree in civil engineering and first moved to Chicago.

Finding little engineering work, he taught school and worked on area farms. One day, while taking produce from his rented farm northwest of Chicago to markets in the city, he saw an advertisement for the Chicago‐Colorado Colony, which later became the city of Longmont.

In March 1871, Calkins purchased land certificates and along with his first wife, Kate, and daughter, became some of the first colonists in Longmont. Their first son, Benjamin, was the first male child to be born in Longmont.

He retired from farming in 1895, later serving as Longmont’s city engineer. Calkins also served two years in the Colorado General Assembly, in 1893 and 1894. He sat on the insurance & banking, state institutions, and stock committees. 

Calkins died in 1927, but not before building the reservoir whose name is now in question in a depression on his land.

The local name change from Calkins Lake to Union Reservoir appears to have taken place around 1903, when the Union Ditch Company of LaSalle began drilling a tunnel to release water into the St. Vrain Creek.

“According to Colorado water law, that made Union a true reservoir,” the city of Longmont said on its website.

Still, Melissa Calkins told Colorado Politics her family association "strongly requests that the lake maintain the historical Calkins nam.”

“The Calkins family has been a part of Colorado’s history for decades," she said.