Buffalo City owes it origins to the Colonization Society of Cincinnati, a group of Germans who were looking for places to resettle newly-arriving immigrants from their home country. In 1854, they looked to Kansas for a new settlement, but violence between abolitionist and pro-slavery forces persuaded them to look further north. In 1856 they bought land in western Wisconsin and platted a village they called Buffalo City.
At first, the new village attracted a good number of settlers, including many from Cincinnati. It soon became apparent, however, that river access was only going to be possible during periods of high water; the rest of the time, the main channel was too far away or simply inaccessible from the village. The town didn’t attract much business, and many settlers left in disappointment. Folks plodded on.
Buffalo City incorporated in 1859, when it had fewer than 200 residents. With incorporation out of the way, local folks made an effort to get the county seat in 1862 by erecting a small building that could be used as a courthouse; their effort failed, so the building was used for a while as a jail and city office. The building is still around (in Buffalo City Park) and is the oldest existing jail in Wisconsin. Buffalo City never attracted much business. Once the early grand plans failed, the city developed into a residential community of retired farmers and seasonal residents, and that is still pretty much the case today.