Getting to Know August Kickbusch :: The First Mayor of Wausau

Written by Gary Gisselman

August Kickbusch (1828–1901). Photo courtesy of the Marathon County Historical Society.

August Kickbusch was one of Wausau’s early leaders — a city father of sorts, as he was heavily involved in the development and advancement of the city.

Kickbusch was born in Colberg, Pomerania, Germany, in 1828. In 1857, he came to the United States, settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Word must have been beginning to spread about the great opportunities in Wausau, for he didn’t wait long to pack up a load of merchandise and head to Wausau to begin his career in the retail trade here.

Kickbusch started in a little shanty on Clarke Island, but soon he had to acquire a larger space at the corner of Washington Street and Main Street (now First Street).

kickbush store
Kickbusch store. Photo courtesy of the Marathon County Historical Society.

His business kept expanding until, in 1888, he began a wholesale grocery business that would eventually lead to building a brick warehouse and office at 144 West Washington Street.

Kickbusch warehouse on Washington Street, Wausau. Photo courtesy of the Marathon County Historical Society.

In addition to his mercantile business, Kickbusch engaged in the brick industry and a variety of lumber industries, including sawmills and a planing mill. He also served as president of the George Ruder Brewing Company and the First National Bank.

While actively engaged in the business affairs of the city, Kickbusch also was involved in the civic side of the growing Wausau community…

In 1867, he and B. G. Plumer gave 80 acres of land on Wausau’s west side to the Marathon County Agricultural Society to be used as fairgrounds. The following year, the Wisconsin Valley Fair opened with a parade down Main Street attended by 2,000 people.

His community involvement naturally led Kickbush into politics. He served as:

  • Chairman of the Marathon County Board
  • President of the Village of Wausau
  • The first Mayor of the City of Wausau

Kickbusch keep a strong tie to the German population in Wausau. His most bold act for the promotion of German life in Marathon County was to travel back to Germany in 1867 to enlist 702 German emigrants to come to Marathon County. He chartered the steamer “America.”

The new settlers purchased farms in Marathon County and worked in factories in Wausau and small communities throughout the county. If Marathon County became a German county, it was because of the great effort of Kickbusch to bring Germans to Central Wisconsin.

August Kickbusch ranks as one of the few early founders of Wausau who set the stage — socially, culturally, economically, and politically — for what Wausau and Marathon County would become for the rest of the 19th century and well into the 20th century.

Along with Walter McIndoe, Walter Alexander, Alexander Stewart, and Daniel Plumer, August Kickbusch stands as part of a dedicated group of early pioneers who wanted to make this settlement a great place to live, work, play, and do business — even back then.

Alderperson_GaryGisselmanGary Gisselman

Librarian & Archivist  |  Marathon County Historical Society
Alderperson  |  Wausau City Council

Gary is a lifelong resident of the City of Wausau and has been an active member of the community for decades. Two of Gary’s many passions are history and helping people, and he has made it his mission to pursue both. Gary served as a Reference Librarian at the Marathon County Public Library for over 30 years, and he currently serves as a Librarian and Archivist for the Marathon County Historical Society. Gary’s commitment to our community led him to serve on the Marathon County Board from 2006 to 2014 and on the Wausau City Council from 2006 to the present.  Email Gary Gisselman.

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