Paul Pichler, a foreign-born former Lisbon Town Chairman
Paul Pichler was born in Vienna, the capitol of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1895. He was already 60 years old when he was elected as Lisbon Town Chairman in April 1955 and 66 when he was voted out of the seat in 1961.
He beat the longest ever serving Lisbon chairman, William "Bill" Zillmer, who had served the prior 31 years from 1924-1955. In turn, in 1961, a farmer politician, Art Manke, defeated Pichler. In the history of Lisbon, there has been 60 changes of men who served as Lisbon Town Chairman and 52 men who have actually filled the seat as there was a habit in Lisbon to recycle its chairmen. No less than eight have served staggered terms something like President Grover Cleveland who is both the 22nd and 24th U.S. President first elected in 1884 and then elected again in 1892.
Pichler spoke German and a smattering of other languages. In 1908, at age 13, he left Austria and came to America and Milwaukee. He was soon apprenticed to a furniture factory in Keil, Wisc. However, he had an attachment to the Milwaukee area and the Town of Lisbon.
When was 20, he returned to Milwaukee to work for a bakery delivering with a horse and buggy. One of his routes in Milwaukee was to Wauwatosa where he met a 16-year-old girl named Fraulein Anna B. Bartl who was also Austrian-born. Kindred spirits, they began dating even though he was four years her senior. Once he was late bringing her home because there had been a street car accident. She was supposed to be home by 6 p.m., but the Wauwatosa street car only ran once an hour and they missed the deadline because of the accident. For this infraction of the "rules" Pichler was forbidden to see her anymore.
Surreptitiously, they met again and the only thing they could think of to solve the problem was to elope. They first applied at the Wauwatosa Village Office, but because he was 21 and she was 17, in 1915, Wisconsin State Law considered them underage and they could not marry without parental permission. However, the sympathetic clerk scribbled a message on a piece of paper, "Go to Waukegan, Ill., you can get married there."
So they took the train to Waukegan and when they arrived at the courthouse, the clerk asked them what they wanted and their reply was, "to get married right away." The clerk had them fill out some paperwork and they were escorted to another room to wait. Suddenly an official walked in announcing to the couple, "You are married. Kiss the bride. That will be $5 please." The marriage lasted 67 years and produced three children: Eleanor, Fred and Irene.
As World War I closed out in 1918, the new couple decided to get a start on life in Corson County, South Dakota. He operated a 1,600-acre farm in the county just below the North Dakota border. The couple made a go of it in the 1920s until the drought and dust storms of the Great Depression arrived. There was no rain and no water for their cattle or wheat crops.
So Pichler squeezed out a living dabbling in politics. He was elected as the chairman of the Corson Township serving from 1930 to 1935. He later got a part-time job with the federal government purchasing starving cattle that were destroyed. He said in 1956, "Many a day I shot 100 cattle that couldn't be used for anything."
In 1936, Anna prevailed upon him sighting their financial straits saying they should give up and go back to the protection of the greater family in the Milwaukee area.
Initially they lived in Hartland and Pichler was able to secure work at Badger Auto Co. in Milwaukee. The family had hit rock bottom, but Pichler had a job, ambition and pluck. And they had each other.
More on this man and his family in the next Retrospect.
More on Lisbon's Paul Pichler
by Fred H. Keller
printed Retrospect, Living Sussex Sun,
This is a continuation of the life story of Lisbon's 53rd Town Chairman Paul Pichler. Pichler immigrated from Vienna, Austria to the United States at age 13. In 1915, he married another Austrian native, Anna Bartl. The couple moved to South Dakota to farm and ranch, but as the Great Depression struck, came back to the Milwaukee area and Pichler was able to secure a job with Badger Auto Co.
Somehow through all their trials and tribulations the couple was able to save $1,000 from their last wheat crop in South Dakota. With the money earned from his new job and the saved check, the family purchased a 20-acre farm on Lisbon Road in the Town of Menomonee Falls. He improved the farm and began raising chickens and vegetable crops while still working for Badger Auto.
In 1939, he parlayed his 20-acre farm into buying a farm spread in Lisbon north of Plainview Road on the east side of Lake Five Road acquiring the August Meissner farm.
In 1949, between World War II and the oncoming Korean War, he sold his Lake Five Road farm of 11 years for cash and a broken down stone home on a unique triangle of land that was on a glacial knoll. Using his furniture-making and carpentry skills, Pichler created a home out of the dilapidated leftovers he purchased. It roofed it, added a large living room with three large picture windows that from the family's eagle perch on top of the hill, had views of Lannon to the east, Waukesha to the south and Merton to the west.
Pichler, always a striving, goal-oriented man then started to dabble in Lisbon politics. He had friends and he had enemies, but he was capable of fighting for what he wanted. At one time, he took on Willow Springs School which had three students from the vicinity of Pichler's home, but no bus service and the school would not budge to offer it. He at first lost, but in the end won and Willow Springs eventually started a bus system.
He also served as assessor for Lisbon and was elected to the Lisbon Town Chairman seat overcoming 31-year incumbent William Zillmer in 1955. Pichler stressed that Lisbon needed a change after 31 years under Zillmer's leadership.
At the time Lisbon was meeting in the Lisbon Town Hall which was actually in today's Village of Sussex. Pichler was able to get approval at the Lisbon annual meeting to approve construction of a new Lisbon Town Hall and equipment storage facility on Good Hope and Hillside Roads for $22,500. Pichler saved the town money on the new structure by serving as the general contractor and inspector.
However, Pichler's leadership turned rocky when he fired a long-time, very popular public works employee Frank Tetzlaff and replaced him with Paul Samanske.
Newspapers reported, "at times Pichler as his rough and tumble moments and there are times, after being criticized when he wonders whether it is worthwhile."
In 1980, at age 85, Pichler's land and home on the crown of the bump on Good Hope Road sold to the Village of Sussex for $53,000 with a provision that Pichler and his wife can live tax free for the next two years. Sussex and the state/county bought it to remove the bump in the road from the glacial knoll which had made the road dangerous.
In time the house was used in a practice burn by the Sussex Fire Department and the new road now comes within 23 feet of the former home's foundation. Today, another home has been built on this hill. Somewhat unique about the burning of this home was Pichler had put a special roof on his home that was a foil-like covering of sheet copper over shingles. When it burned, the burning copper gave a green hue in the fire.
The Pichlers later moved into a downtown Sussex home for their final years. Paul and Ann were married for 67 years. Anna died at age 83 on Nov. 11, 1983 and Paul at age 87 on March 11, 1982.