Oregon City Courier

Oregon City Courier
[LCCN: sn00063694]
Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon

Oregon Courier
[LCCN: sn00063695]
Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon

Oregon City Courier
[LCCN: sn00063696]
Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon

Oregon City Courier=Herald
[LCCN: sn00063697]
Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon

Oregon City Courier
[LCCN: sn00063698]
Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon

The Banner-Courier
[LCCN: sn00063699]
Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon


Created in May of 1883 by Isaac LeMahieu, the Oregon City Courier [LCCN: sn00063694] was a leading publication in the Willamette Valley, merging with several newspapers throughout its span.  Even though the paper changed hands, names, and political leanings several times during its 67 years in print, the Courier alwaysreflected the needs and wants of Clackamas County.

Isaac LeMahieu was born in Holland in 1841 and immigrated to the United States early in life.  Eventually settling in Oregon in 1882, LeMahieu recognized the lack of Democratic news sources in the dominantly Republican county, and he created the Oregon City Courier to fill that void.  The paper began as a four-page weekly publication, costing $2.00 a year.  The front and second pages were devoted to international and general interest news, with special attention paid to national events.  Page three covered local news and advertising, with the last page typically featuring short stories, poetry and agricultural and market reports.  The paper took a strong interest in politics and reported on local, state and national elections.

At some point in the late 1880s, LeMahieu dropped “City” from the title and the paper was published as the Oregon Courier [LCCN: sn00063695].  The publication continued its Democratic tendencies and remained relatively unchanged; articles criticizing Republican candidates were still normal fodder.  News from the nation’s capital continued to be covered, and advertising now appeared on all pages.

On September 8, 1894, due to declining health, LeMahieu sold the Oregon Courier to A. W. Cheney for $2,000.  Cheney, a native of Wisconsin whose own father was a newspaperman, continued the paper’s Democratic vision.  On September 13, 1895, the paper increased to eight pages in order to accommodate the “increased advertising patronage and to give its constantly increasing list of subscribers more reading matter.”  The new Courier was true to its word, with advertising dominating nearly every page including the front.  At this point, a regular and quite progressive column, “Woman’s World” or “Woman at Home,” appeared and reported on civil rights struggles, women in the workforce, and female activists like Florence Nightingale, as well as covering topics like fashion and health tips.

On July 10, 1896 Cheney changed the name of the paper back to the Oregon City Courier [LCCN: sn00063696].  Cheney would prove to be an exceedingly competent proprietor and publisher; in 1898, he purchased the Oregon City Herald [LCCN: unknown] and consolidated it with the Oregon City Courier.  The new publication appeared on September 23, 1898 and ran as the Oregon City Courier=Herald [LCCN: sn00063697].  Since the two papers shared a similar makeup, the political complexion remained Democratic.  In the first issue, Cheney and Charles A. Fitch of the Herald stated that the consolidation would make the paper’s subscription list “more than double in size that of any other paper published in Clackamas County,” and by 1900 the paper’s circulation was over 1,600.  The Courier=Herald would also be the county’s official paper with exclusive patronage of the sheriff’s office. 

The paper continually and harshly criticized the affairs of Republican President William McKinley and gave little attention to his assassination.  After McKinley was fatally shot on September 6, 1901, most papers contributed several pages and issues to the passing of the President of the United States.  The Courier=Herald devoted only a single column to the death of the McKinley.  It was, in fact, found on page six, crammed between advertisements for Castoria Digestive Syrup and fur coats.

On October 31, 1902, the editorship of the Courier=Herald passed to John H. Westover, a Democratic newspaper publisher from Kentucky who promised, under his new ownership, to “dip [the] pen in the milk of human kindness.”  Westover dropped “Herald” from the name and on November 7, 1902 the paper was once again published as the Oregon City Courier [LCCN: sn00063698].  The Courier continued to be published weekly as an eight-page, six-column folio. In 1905 a regular magazine section, typically four pages of general news items, was included with the paper.  The magazine section was printed somewhat sporadically the following year and reemerged on May 3, 1907 with an additional comics page.  The “funnies” section printed a variety of cartoons including the wildly popular “Brownie Clown of Brownietown” by Palmer Cox and “Herr Spiegleburger” by Carl Anderson. 

From 1902 to 1919, the Oregon City Courier changed editors and ownership frequently.  On April 15, 1904, Shirley Buck and Professor Henry L. McCann replaced Westover as editor and proprietor.  Edward E. Brodie and A. E. Frost took over as publishers in 1906, and by 1908 William A. Shewman Jr. was editor.  M. J. Brown, a newspaperman from New York, was added to the editorial force of the Courier on April 14, 1911.  Despite the Editor-in-Chief being indicted for criminal libel due to matters printed in the June 27th, 1913 edition of the Courier, circulation steadily increased and Brown remained editor and proprietor of the newspaper until February 18, 1915 when E. R. Brown, unrelated, purchased the paper, including “the entire property, plant, building and…residence.”  Cecil W. Robey would be the editor and business manager the following year.  The Courier was popular with readers and advertisers alike, and by the 1920s the paper was a “most substantial, dependable, profitable business.” 

On July 8, 1919, the Oregon City Courier merged with the Clackamas County Banner [LCCN: sn00063693] and began printing as the Banner-Courier [LCCN: sn00063699]; this is the paper’s final iteration, with Fred J. Tooze and Halbert E. Hoss at the helm.  After the consolidation, the Banner-Courier had a circulation each week of over 2,500, by far the most popular paper coming out of Oregon City.  At this point in the paper’s existence, the Banner-Courier no longer focused on reporting national events with a Democratic slant and instead turned attention to local news of the county and surrounding areas.  Town meetings, local events, and a page dedicated to “Agricultural and Livestock News” replaced the Republican-bashing editorials that were so common before.  This change in substance could also be seen in the years leading up to the merger with an increase in “community-centered” articles.  In 1909, for example, the Courier created an initiative to name local homesteads which would then be listed on the “Courier Registered List of Farms.”

On August 5, 1924, Edward A. Koen, an experienced newspaperman from Minnesota, purchased the Banner-Courier.  E. A. Koen, along with his son Edward P. Koen, would edit and publish the paper for the next twenty-six years. 

The Banner-Courier was printing twice a week by 1924, and due to this increase, the paper was scaled back to four pages.  At this time, the Banner-Courier was also the “only newspaper in the county carrying a comic section.”  The publication continued to focus on the events and affairs of Clackamas County, like the paving of roads and local elections, and proudly declared on every front page that the Banner-Courier was “printed on newsprint manufactured in Oregon City.”  However, in the 1930s and ‘40s, when the world was engaged in the World War II, international news dominated the publication.  The Banner-Courier reported heavily on the war efforts at home and abroad, printing material on “rubber drives” and pictures of ravaged battlefields alike.  Despite the heavy coverage of war, the paper was still a “neighborly newspaper for all Clackamas county” complete with a local sports page and a regular column, “Clackamas County Women,” which highlighted the achievements of resident women.  The Banner-Courier also devoted significant space to “radio programs” by printing the schedules of many stations.

The Banner-Courier, which was printed three times a week by 1950, continued to be a popular and successful newspaper up until March 1, 1950 when E. P. Koen bought the “physical assets, good will, name and circulation” of the Oregon City Enterprise [LCCN: sn00063702] and merged the two papers.  The Enterprise-Courier [LCCN: sn00063703], much like its predecessor, enjoyed a long and popular presence in the community and was published until the 1990s.

“If he buys his home paper
He’s a bully good fellow;
But if he borrows his neighbor’s
We know he is yellow.”
- Oregon City Courier, 1915

 Prepared with reference to:

“Gallery of Oregon Newspaper Men,” Morning Oregonian (Portland), Friday, June 29, 1900.

Lang, H. O., ed.  "The History of the Willamette Valley, Being a Description of the Valley and its Resources, with an account of its Discovery and Settlement by White Men, and its Subsequent History; Together with Personal Reminiscences of its Early Pioneers."  Portland, OR, Geo. H. Himes, Book and Job Printer, 1885.

Rowell, Geo. P. American Newspaper Directory. 16th ed., New York: Geo. P. Rowell and Co, 1884-1909.

Turnbull, George S. History of Oregon Newspapers. Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1939.


--Written by Emily Vance