Following the Indian outbreak, western Minnesota was practically deserted, except for soldiers, stationed at various points, who patrolled the frontier to protect the settlements farther east. Sioux bands of Sisseton and Wahpeton continued for some years to wander over the nearby Dakota prairies to which they had fled. Fear of all Indians was intense. Even had the settlers been sufficiently courageous to homes in the deserted area, they could not have obtained land titles because no surveys had been made.

Settlement of the Big Stone area was accordingly delayed. There were but six houses in the county on August 13, 1870. The population consisted of two families with young children, two young couples, a bachelor living alone, and a widow whose children varied in age from a baby to two sons approaching their majority. The last-named family had a young woman helper. Of the adults, two were born in Massachusetts, two in Wisconsin, one in Kentucky, one in Tennessee, and five in Norway. Eight of the minors were born in Minnesota, five in Tennessee. Government surveys were made in 1871 and 1872. People then came in gradually, but even as late as the spring of 1875 there were only 85 families in the county. The influx of settlement that followed that date increased the population to 8731 at the close of the next quarter-century.