The origin of Riondel’s name is no mystery, but its pronunciation has been controversial for generations.

Riondel could have

Riondel could have

One-hundred sixty second in an alphabetical series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names

The origin of Riondel’s name is no mystery, but its pronunciation has been controversial for generations.

To begin with, however, the town was originally called Hendryx or Hendryx Camp after Dr. Wilbur Alson Hendryx (1849-1918), a mover and shaker during West Kootenay’s early mining years. Hendryx received his medical degree in Chicago in 1874, but a promising claim on Kootenay Lake set him on a different path in the mid-1880s. He and brother Andrew Benedict Hendryx (1834-1907), who owned a brass foundry in Connecticut, obtained a controlling interest in the Bluebell mine.

Hendryx appears on George M. Dawson’s 1890 Reconnaissance Map of a Portion of the West Kootanie [sic] District and was first mentioned in the Nelson Miner’s debut issue of June 21, 1890: “[T]he first locations in the Kootenay Lake country were made at Galena bay, now known as the Hendryx camp.”

Hendryx shows up as a place on Keen’s Map of Kootenay (1892) and Perry’s Mining Map (1893), but according to Impressions of the Past, “After the Blue Bell mine and Pilot Bay smelter closed in 1896, the name Hendryx disappeared. It was replaced by ‘Blue Bell Camp’ and ‘Blue Bell Mines’ on maps.”

(The only known newspaper mention of Blue Bell Camp was in the Nelson Miner of Dec. 27, 1890: “A report is in circulation that the Hendryx company has purchased outright the Ainsworth interests in the Blue Bell camp …”)

In 1905, the Canadian Metal Company, which owned a zinc smelter in Frank, Alta., acquired the Bluebell. Its president was a French banker named Riondel about whom remarkably little is known. His first name is given variously as Edouard, Edward, and Edmond and he’s usually described as a count. We also know he ran the Banque Lilloise.

Riondel’s presence in the Kootenay is first noted in the Fernie Ledger of Sept. 20, 1905: “Messrs. Fernau, Edward Riondel, and Octave Liegeart, who spent last week in British Columbia inspecting the mines of the mental company, returned Saturday in anticipation of the visit of Earl Gray …”

Riondel was also president of a reduction works in Goldfield, Nevada. He was there in 1906, then returned to France, never to be heard from again. However, he appears in a couple of photos taken at the Bluebell, and in the 1980s, two sets of descendants visited Riondel, but didn’t spell out their precise relationship to Edouard or explain what had happened to him.

In any case, he evidently made an impression on S.S. Fowler, the Canadian Metal Company’s on-site manager.

As Fowler related in a 1919 letter to provincial mineralogist W.F. Robertson (quoted in the November 1958 issue of Cominco Magazine): “In 1907 the writer was desirous of establishing a post office here and intended to call it by the name of Bluebell; but the post office department declined to permit its use. Other names were suggested such as Hendryx as the landing here was formerly known but none of them, for one reason or another, seemed to fit so I finally decided upon Riondel. It is or should be pronounced Ree-on-del with accent very slightly on the first syllable … I trust he [Riondel] derived some satisfaction from having his name perpetuated for the time through its association with a place of which he was very fond.”

Fowler’s letter proves the proper pronunciation. But you’ll often hear RYE-on-del as well as ree-ON-dul and even a few other variations.

Historian Ted Affleck was aghast when he visited in 1997, relating in an unpublished manuscript in the Touchstones Nelson archives: “My reaction was that the settlement has not only been misnamed for the better part of the century, but the post office name … is now a mispronounced misnomer. S.S. Fowler, no mean amateur historian, must have pondered well before eschewing the name Hendryx and assigning the name Riondel to the mining camp … As soon as the Hendryx brothers ceased pouring money into Kootenay mining enterprises they became non-persons. By 1907, the name Hendryx was decidedly tarnished, so it is understandable that Fowler, wishing to start a new operation at the old Bluebell mine in 1907 chose not to perpetuate the name of Hendryx.”

Hendryx is still honoured with a Nelson street and a creek near Riondel, but in the December 2001 issue of the East Shore Mainstreet, Affleck insisted “Wilbur Hendryx deserved a better deal in the Kootenay place name stakes.”

The Riondel post office opened Feb. 1, 1907. According to the Winter 1988 issue of Canadian West, besides Bluebell and Hendryx, Fowler also considered Douglas, McDonald, and Hammill — presumably after botanist David Douglas, Fort Colvile factor Archie McDonald, and murdered claim jumper Thomas Hammill.

Why was the name Bluebell denied? Possibly because of an existing post office in Blue Bell, N.B.

The confusion over the pronunciation has inspired at least two poems. Sherlynne Green’s winning entry in a limerick contest was published in the East Shore Mainstreet in May 1993: “Ryeondel, Reeondel, Rinedel/It really is hard to spell/If we’d all commit/On how to pronounce it/The name would then ring a bell.”

Meanwhile, Capt. West of Kaslo came up with this verse, recorded in Terry Turner’s book Bluebell Memories: “RI-ondel, Ri-ON-del, Rion-DEL/Oh hell/Just call it good old Bluebell.”

Previous installments in this series





Annable, Apex, and Arrow Park

Annable, revisited


Applegrove, Appleby, and Appledale revisited

Argenta and Arrowhead


Bakers, Birds, and Bosun Landing


Bannock City, Basin City, and Bear Lake City



Bealby Point

Bealby Point (aka Florence Park) revisited

Belford and Blewett

Beaverdell and Billings

Birchbank and Birchdale

Blueberry and Bonnington

Boswell, Bosworth, Boulder Mill, and Broadwater



Brooklyn, Brouse, and Burnt Flat


Camborne, Cariboo City, and Carrolls Landing

Carmi, Cedar Point, Circle City, and Clark’s Camp

Carson, Carstens, and Cascade City

Casino and Champion Creek

Castlegar, Part 1

Castlegar, Part 2

Castlegar, Part 3

Christina Lake

Christina City and Christian Valley

Clubb Landing and Coltern

Cody and Champion Creek revisited

Champion Creek revisited, again


Columbia City, Columbia Gardens, and Columbia Park


Cooper Creek and Corra Linn

Crawford Bay and Comaplix revisited

Crescent Valley and Craigtown


Dawson, Deadwood, and Deanshaven

Deer Park

East Arrow Park and Edgewood


English Cove and English Point



Evans Creek and Evansport

Falls City




Ferguson, revisited


Forslund, Fosthall, and Fairview

Fort Shepherd vs. Fort Sheppard, Part 1

Fort Shepherd vs. Fort Sheppard, Part 2

Fort Sheppard, revisited

Fraser’s Landing and Franklin


Fruitvale and Fraine

Galena Bay



Gilpin and Glade

Gladstone and Gerrard, revisited

Glendevon and Graham Landing

Gloster City

Goldfields and Gold Hill

Grand Forks, Part 1

Grand Forks, Part 2

Granite Siding and Granite City

Gray Creek, Part 1

Gray Creek, Part 2

Gray Creek, revisited

Green City


Halcyon Hot Springs

Hall Siding and Healy’s Landing


Hartford Junction


Howser, Part 1

Howser, Part 2

Howser, Part 3

Howser, Part 4

Hudu Valley, Huntingtdon, and Healy’s Landing revisited

Inonoaklin Valley (aka Fire Valley)

Jersey, Johnsons Landing, and Jubilee Point

Kaslo, Part 1

Kaslo, Part 2

Kaslo, Part 3

Kaslo, Part 4

Kettle River, Part 1

Kettle River, Part 2

Kinnaird, Part 1

Kinnaird, Part 2

Kitto Landing

Koch Siding and Keen


Kootenay Bay, Kraft, and Krestova

Kuskonook, Part 1

Kuskonook, Part 2

Kuskonook (and Kuskanax), Part 3

Labarthe, Lafferty, and Longbeach

Lardeau, Part 1

Lardeau, Part 2

Lardeau, Part 3

Lardeau, Part 4


Lemon Creek, Part 1

Lemon Creek, Part 2

Lemon Creek, Part 3

Makinsons Landing and Marblehead

McDonalds Landing, McGuigan, and Meadow Creek

Meadows, Melville, and Miles’ Ferry


Mineral City and Minton

Mirror Lake and Molly Gibson Landing

Montgomery and Monte Carlo, Part 1

Montgomery and Monte Carlo, Part 2

Montrose and Myncaster

Nakusp, Part 1

Nakusp, Part 2



Nelson, Part 1

Nelson, Part 2

Nelson, Part 3

Nelson, Part 4

Nelson, Wash.

Nelway and New Galway

New Denver, Part 1

New Denver, Part 2


Oasis and Oatescott



Park Siding and Pass Creek




Perry Siding


Pilot Bay


Playmor Junction

Poplar and Porcupine

Porto Rico and Pottersville

Poupore, Powder Point, and Power’s Camp

Procter, Part 1

Procter, Part 2

Queens Bay, Rambler, and Raspberry

Remac and Renata


Rhone and Rideau

Place Names

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