August Kickbusch-Famous Pommerns—Pioneer, Settler, First Mayor of Wausau

The piece that follows comes from a front page article that appeared in the Wausau Pilot on June 4, 1901. 


Death of A. Kickbusch


Last Tuesday afternoon [May 28, 1901] as the Pilot was going to press we received an announcement by telephone that August Kickbusch had just passed away, and as it was then too late to give a detailed account of his life and death, we deferred the matter until this issue.

He died at about four o’clock, and his death came not as a surprise for the end had been momentarily expected for several days. He was taken sick in mid-winter, and for about four months he lingered along, and though his strong vitality bore him up, it was plain to be seen that it would be but a question of time when he must join the great majority.


Mr. Kickbusch was one of the best known men in Wausau, and also in Marathon county.  He had lived here so long and his business dealings, together with his part in the development of this count, are responsible for this wide range of acquaintanceship.  He was kindly in character, and many a poor family of emigrants will remember with gratitude some courtesy extended to them through August Kickbusch.  The story of his life demonstrates what is within the power of a man to accomplish who starts out, as he did, of humble means, but with a determined will, and pursues that determination through life until he retires with a goodly share of this world’s goods.

August Kickbusch was born at Colberg, in the Province of Pomerania, Prussia, October 15, 1825, a son of F Martin and Katrina Kickbusch, and was one of five children.  They were Marie, wife of Herman Marquardt, of this city, Ferdinand, also of Wausau; Caroline, wife of Frank Radant, of Kilbourn City; Frederick, of Wausau, and, the subject of this article.

August attended the public schools in his native land, and served an apprenticeship as a brick maker and worked at that trade until 1857, when he left that country and came to America, his parents preceding him by two weeks.  He arrived at Quebec, Canada, and then came to Milwaukee.  A few days later he started out on foot for Wausau and walked the entire distance.  He purchased 354 acres of land in this county in what is now the town of Hamburg, but as the land could not be reached by wagon road, he went back to Milwaukee, where he spent three years in driving a team.  

In 1860 he purchased a wagon load of supplies, such as are used in a new country, and started out for Wausau.  When he reached this place, which was then called Big Bull Falls; he sold his outfit at a fair profit and returned to Milwaukee for his family and household belongings.  The country being a wilderness the family was forced to camp at night along the roadside, the other members sleeping in the wagon, while Mr. Kickbusch slept underneath the same.  Arriving here Mr. Kickbusch erected a shanty on Clarke’s island at about the spot where Livingston’s warehouse now stands.  In the fall of that year he began trading with the Indians, receiving from the latter, furs and other articles which he sold.  During that year he incorporated what is now known as the A. Kickbusch Grocery Co., his sons, Robert and Paul, being members of the firm.

Ten years later from the time Mr. Kickbusch first set foot on Marathon county soil the county had not developed to any great extent, and he was of the opinion that an influx of desirable emigrants would be a source of much benefit, and that much value to the material interests of the county would accrue there from.

He accordingly, on March 12, 1867, took a trip to Germany and secured 702 people, chartering for their exclusive use the steamer America of the North German Lloyd line.  The party reached New York June 12th and proceeded by rail to Oshkosh, thence by boat to Gill’s Landing, where the women and children were placed on wagons and the men started out on foot, the party reaching Wausau June 20th.

Mr. Kickbusch took some of the men into his employ, while others he secured work for elsewhere or placed on farms, and nearly every one of these men are today thrifty and well-to-do, and have done much toward this county’s settlement.  From that time on settlers came in fast, and as others saw the benefits derived from the venture, Mr. Kickbusch was offered his passage to and from the old country, together with $1000, if he would but secure more emigrants, but business interests pressing him he could not yield.

Mr. Kickbusch served for several terms as president of the village and was chairman of the county board for five years; he was Wausau’s first mayor, serving for two terms, and in 1889 was appointed register of the U.S. Land Office, serving one year when he was forced to give up owing to business interests.  At the time of his death he was president of the Geo. Ruder Brewing Co., president and director of the First National Bank and president of Central Land Co.  He was also a charter member of Wausau Lodge No. 215, I.O.O.F., and of St. Paul’s church and also of the Old Settler’s club.  He dealt largely of late years in bridge timber, ties and telegraph poles with which he furnished the St. Paul R. R. Co.  The Marathon county fair grounds and the city hall clock were donated by Mr. Kickbusch and the late B. G. Plumer, and he proved a benefactor in many enterprises of a business and social nature.

He was married in his native land to Miss Mathilda Schochow, and of five children born to them, four are still living.  These are Otto, Mrs. Martha Rons and Robert, of Wausau, and Mrs. Anton Mohr, of Milwaukee.  He was married a second time to Miss Amelia Flohr, by whom he had two children, Paul and Alma, wife of Henry Ruder, both of this city.  Mr. Kickbusch lost his father in 1873 and his mother in 1875; both are buried in the Wausau cemetery.  Besides the relatives mentioned above he has innumerable grandchildren.

The funeral was held Friday afternoon and the procession was one of the largest ever seen in this city.


What follows is a an additional piece which appeared in the Wausau paper much later which gives us a little more insight into this resourceful person.

Brothers Help Lay Foundation for Wausau’s Retail Trade

Ed Wodalski

Wausau Sunday Herald

January 19, 1986

Big Bull Falls -was but a roaring 1860 lumber town when August and Frederick Kickbusch first rode into town.  Born in Pomerania, Prussia, they came from Milwaukee — their covered wagon loaded with goods for sale.  It was a trip August had made at least once before — on foot.  Tired and dusty, the brothers began dispensing goods from their wagon.  The tailboard served as the settlement's first checkout counter — a $59 profit proved incentive for the brothers to call the Pinery their new home. Building a shanty on Clarke Island, they traded with Indians in the region — furs were exchanged for provisions, knick-knacks and a bit of cash.  Together they began laying the foundation for the grocery and retail trade.  The partnership remained intact until 1869 when Frederick began a lumber and manufacturing business of his own.  August continued in retail sales. In 1862 he bought the Doolittle General Store on the corner of First and Washington streets, selling general merchandise there until 1888 when his interests turned to wholesaling.  Expanding his operations to a brick warehouse and office at 144 Washington St. in 1899, August later turned over control of the company to his son, who maintained A. Kickbusch and Son Wholesale Grocery until its liquidation in 1960.  August’s interests, however, went beyond sales.  He was actively involved in the German settlement, convincing 702 Germans to immigrate to the United States in 1867.  August, who served as Wausau's first mayor in 1872, convinced the Wisconsin Valley Railroad to run its line through Wausau, and at the time of. his death in 1901, was president of the First National Bank and the Ruder Brewery.

Politics also attracted Frederick who was elected county treasurer in 1872 and to the Assembly in 1877.  He abandoned the lumber business in 1871, building with George Werheim a sash, door and blind factory on the site of what is now Big Bulls Falls park.  In 1893 President Cleveland appointed Frederick consul to Stettin, Germany.  Later resigning his office, Frederick returned to Wausau, where he again took up milling. 

Wausau Becomes a City in 1872—Kickbusch, Mayor.


Our thanks to Gary Gisselman and fellow member Brian Bushnell of the Marathon County Historical Society for helping us locate this material.

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