In the 19th century, as emigrants were fleeing central Europe, a large group of Germans settled in Oregon. The community had its own church in Portland, St. Joseph. The now-defunct church was home to the area’s large German-speaking community for decades. In 1887, the parish’s pastor, Father Alois Sommer, started a monthly German Catholic newspaper, St. Josephs-Blattchen, or “St. Josephs Leaflets.” The priest was assisted by Benedictine Sister Dominika but eventually the publication became too much for them. So the Benedictine monks at Mount Angel Abbey took over publishing.

The abbey was fortunate to have Brother Celestine Mueller, who had been a printer before joining the Benedictines. The then just 22-year-old monk was editor of the newspaper from 1889 to 1929. Brother Mueller, born in Switzerland, went on to make the newspaper a weekly publication and cemented it as influential among German-American Catholics in the West. The newspaper covered church matters, of course, but also tackled local, national and international politics. At its peak, the newspaper’s circulation exceeded 20,000.

St. Josephs-Blatt was printed in Portland until 1915, at which point the abbey completed construction of its press building.

Brother Mueller continued to run the newspaper, which he called a “German-American’s best friend,” until his death in 1929. Global politics put the publication in a difficult situation, however. Before the U.S. joined the fight against Germany in World War I, St. Josephs-Blatt had advocated for U.S. neutrality and had been an apologist for the German cause. The publication’s stances bothered many in Oregon and eventually Brother Mueller remained silent on the war and urged the purchase of war bonds. After Brother Mueller’s death, other monks took over the newspaper publication. But the paper’s politics, combined with fewer Germans immigrating to the area, led to a decline. By 1938, the paper’s circulation sat at just 7,000 and it fell to fewer than 5,000 by 1959. It was shut down in 1966.