Isaac Atwater arrived in St. Anthony Village in late 1850, at the urging of John Wesley North, a fellow lawyer and friend from New York. He was 32 years old. North and Atwater practiced law together less than a year. Thereafter, Atwater continued to practice law, bought and sold land claims, and staked out claims on what would become Minneapolis; he also became the publisher of the "St. Anthony Express" newspaper.
In the general election in October 1857, he was elected to the state supreme court, and took office when the new state government was organized in May of the following year. In 1864, he resigned to accept a lucrative offer to practice law in Carson City, Nevada. He returned to Minnesota in 1867, re-established his law practice. In the following decades, he served in many civic, commercial and government boards. He retired in 1886.
Pursuing an interest in local history, Atwater researched, wrote and edited the massive, three volume "History of Minneapolis," which was published beginning in 1893. He died in 1906, at age 88.
Penny Petersen, the author of this study of Atwater, is an independent scholar, residing in Minneapolis. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, she is the author of "Hiding in Plain Sight: Minneapolis' First Neighborhood" (1999), and "Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront" (University of Minnesota Press, 2013).