One-hundred twelfth in a somewhat alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
Last week we began looking at the origin of Lardeau, also spelled Lardo, which has perplexed historians for generations. Nelson old-timer R.G. Joy tried to get some answers for a column published in the Daily News of Aug. 10, 1951.
“I remember meeting one of the pioneers who saw Lardo townsite before it received its name,” he wrote. “‘Why was it called Lardo, oldtimer?” I asked. ‘I think it has something to do with a lardpail,’ he replied. ‘And I think that is one of the reasons that place has been wrongly spelled Lardeau.’
“As years went by I was still searching for the correct spelling and asked a learned couple whom I met there about two decades ago. The word Lardeau is from the French gold in water, I was told.’”
That explanation that it comes l’ord’eau’ seems highly unlikely. More probable is that Lardeau does have something to do with lard or bacon, although the spelling may well owe something to French.
Other area place names made to sound French include Comaplix and Incomappleux, which are actually derived from a Sinixt word. (Lardeau was sometimes spelled Lardeaux, but there has never been any suggestion it too was from a Sinixt word.)
Milt Parent wrote in Circle of Silver that “In studying reports by the early explorers … one observes the preponderance of French names already established in the region … Add to this Geological reports of the Dept. of Mines declared the Lardeau to have been prospected as early as 1865 and the fact that French Canadian trappers probably made early use of this untouched district, one can’t help but deduce the name Lardeau originated from this source.”
Parent added that Lardeau is a rare surname and woman by that name from Quebec who visited the area to learn about its origin wasn’t very successful. Michael Neault also researched the surname and discovered very few people named Lardeau in Canada. There were 317 births in France by that name from 1966 to 1990.
“Whether Lardo is nothing more than a corruption of the word by someone who couldn’t spell is only conjecture,” Parent wrote. “But if Mr. Lardeau was around he would be very proud of the extent to which his name has been used.”
Some have observed a similarity between Kaslo/Kasleau and Lardo/Lardeau, although Kaslo was never actually spelled Kasleau; only much later was it suggested that it might have been named after a Jean Kasleau, whose existence is doubtful.
Lardo and Lardeau were used interchangeably for decades before the latter form won out. According to the July 1978 issue of Canoma, in 1902 the Geographic Board of Canada approved the spelling of Lardeau, but the railway didn’t start using it until the mid-1910s and the Lardo post office, which opened in 1899, didn’t change its name to Lardeau until Oct. 2, 1947. Officially, the BC Geographic Names database only recognizes the form Lardeau. It’s pronounced LAR-doe.
While the name’s origin may be unclear, its use was contentious, as we’ll see next week.
Next: Lardo vs. Lardeau
Previous installments in this series