"Ye who love a nation's legends…pause and listen…"
The vale of Tawasentha in Longfellow's epic poem was in New York not White Salmon.
Tawasentha is the one and only label ever used by Herbert Williams, a early twentieth century fruit grower in White Salmon, Washington. Williams, a native of Ohio, first moved west to farm in North Dakota, but he apparently soon saw better opportunities in Minneapolis, where he became a successful and influential banker. In 1906, however, he learned about new lands being opened for development north of the Columbia River in Washington State. It proved to be a wonderful move for Williams, who became so enthusiastic about the promise of the White Salmon area that he immediately became its best sales agent. In an article published in the Portland Oregonian on July 23, 1911, the reporter had this to say:
To tell the story of the rise of the White Salmon country is an interesting tale, for it shows what can be done by an intelligent and enthusiastic people in the face of great disadvantages. And it is a good lesson in advertising for personal solicitation and the good team work of the citizens have been the winners—not the expensive booklets and elaborate circulars.
The first real step in their progress came about six years ago from the sale of land to a gentleman in Minneapolis, Mr. Herbert Williams. He was a man of wealth, and also a man of influence, and he had so much faith in his purchase that he became a sort of walking, talking advertisement for his chosen section. Others from his town (Minneapolis), as well as some from St. Paul, came out to look the lands over, and they also bought—those who [were] fortunate [enough] to get to their destination [White Salmon] past the agents from other towns who were [trying to waylay] them from several points.
Soon it got to be quite the common talk in the Twin Cities that White Salmon was a good place to invest in, and the buyers kept coming. Soon there was formed in Minneapolis a club, called the Twin Cities White Salmon League, composed only of those who owned land in the place of their choice. And "there is a reason," which is this: no man from the Twin Cities has ever made a purchase of White Salmon land that has not made him a large profit.
It is unlikely that the annual profitability for every investor continued, but Williams was among those who worked very hard to get the fruit industry established along the Columbia River. He and his wife, Lyra, were active in many civic organizations and community improvement projects. He was one of the few early growers to develop a steady source of irrigation water; he did so by constructing a dam that captured water from one of the springs on his property. According to the November 11, 1911, edition of the White Salmon Enterprise, Williams owned 360 acres of land north of the town of White Salmon on what is known as the Lower Snowden Road. One hundred acres were planted in apple trees, 20 acres in peach trees, 15 acres in pear trees, and 10 acres in filberts and berries. It is believed these holdings expanded to 1,000 acres by the time of his death several years later.
The other investors from Minneapolis had mixed results; some invested together to form orchard companies that have prospered and survived despite changes in management and ownership over the years. The Mount Adams Orchard Company, now owned by Jack Bloxom, is one such company. Others purchased land at a higher elevation; but these holdings eventually failed because of the more shallow soils and less available moisture. But this is all another story!
The Tawasentha label was inspired by Longfellow's epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, in which the vale of Tawasentha is mentioned as a New York valley where a treaty was signed between the Dutch settlers and the native Ojibway Indians. It can be further guessed that Williams's years in Minneapolis contributed to his knowledge of the poem, as many place names in that Midwestern city were then (as now) drawn from Longfellow's works.