Marathon County Historical Society- home of the Yawkey House Museum & The Woodson History Center.
The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), was a group for the veterans of the American Civil War. Although Marathon County contained a small population in the late 1860s, enough of them had served that a post of the Grand Army of the Republic was established in 1869 (as Post 83). The purpose of the group was to remember the deceased veterans, maintain their graves, and arrange ceremonies and events to remember those who fought in the Civil War--typically on July 4th or Decoration Day (later Memorial Day).
The activities of the first G.A.R. post diminished to the point that it disbanded sometime in the 1870s. But by the early 1880s, as more veterans died, there was a renewed interest in memorializing the fallen soldiers of the Grand Army of the Republic. A new G.A.R. Post (Number 55), was organized in 1882.
The rekindled desire to remember the dead led to a proposal for a statue to memorialize the fallen Union veterans. Although the Marathon County Board allocated $500 for the project, the majority of the funding for the project was raised by subscription donations by private members of the community. It took two years to raise enough funds, but arrangements were eventually made, and the work was formally commissioned in 1884.
The statue would take more than two years to be built. This delay may have been in part because of a disagreement over where the memorial should go. Although the proposal was to have the statue placed on the grounds of the courthouse square, some city officials maintained that the place of a memorial to the fallen should go in a city cemetery.
Evidently this did not sit well with some of the people involved, and the impasse over where the statue should be placed was broken in 1886, when a delivery of the massive granite base for the statue was “accidentally” delivered to the courthouse grounds at night by the Wausau Granite company. Considering the immense weight of the granite base, the City Council members relented and agreed to allow the monument to sit on the courthouse square.
Alexander Robertson’s design for the statue called for the extensive use of red granite (a recently discovered resource for Marathon County). A carved, 7 1/2 foot figure to represent an anonymous Union solider (one source suggested sculptor Chris Young had actual veteran Louis Block pose for the statue) topped the large granite base, bringing it to 22 feet tall.
The Cutler Statue was revealed in late 1886 and was dedicated with a ceremony on July 4th, 1887.
In 1915, Wausau was chosen as the site for Wisconsin’s Grand Encampment of the G.A.R. Some 500 veterans came here to be recognized on the 50th anniversary of the end of the war. But despite the spectacle of the event, it was clear that the veterans of the Civil War were infirm and were dying out.
As advanced age and old wounds took more of the veterans each year, the number of members of the G.A.R. fell. A camp of the "Sons of Veterans" was organized in 1904, and younger generations gradually took over responsibility for remembering and celebrating the Civil War veterans of Wausau.
In 1934, Wausau's the last veteran of the Civil War was Rufus D. Sawyer, who died in the old soldier's home in Waupaca. But the legacy of the members of the Grand Army of the Republic lived on with the monument they helped raise in honor of their cohorts.
With the demolition of the Courthouse in 1952 and the subsequent development of the city block for commercial business (J.C. Penny and S.S. Kresge stores), the Cutler Statue was moved to the site of the new courthouse along Grand Avenue, where it remains today.