Wausau City Guide
Originally inhabited by the Ojibwa (Chippewa) natives, this area of lush pine forests along the banks of the Wisconsin River was known as Big Bull Falls. Ownership of the land was transferred to the U.S. in an 1836 treaty, and by the 1840s, numerous sawmills (and a fledgling community) had sprung up on the riverbanks. In 1846, Walter McIndoe arrived in Big Bull Falls. It was his efforts that led to the organization of Marathon County in 1850. It was also McIndoe who decided the community needed a more appropriate name. He chose "Wausau," a Native American word that means (depending on whom you ask) "a far away place" or "noise like thunder" (in reference to the nearby waterfalls).
With the depletion of the trees, the lumber industry dried up and several towns in the area were abandoned. However, Wausau persevered by converting the lumber mills into paper mills. Today, Wausau's major industries include paper manufacturing, insurance, and tourism.