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  • Writer's pictureNotes From The Frontier

Frontier Gay-eity

Updated: May 8, 2023

The frontier offered all sorts of freedoms and many went west to live in ways they couldn't further east. Here's an amazing and heartbreaking story:

When George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry was posted at Fort Lincoln (North Dakota), one of his corporals, John Noonan, married a woman who had been Custer's long-time laundress. She also baked delicious pies and was the fort's resident midwife. She had a nurturing manner with the pregnant wives of the soldiers and always asked: "Are you comf?"

Noonan and his wife had been married happily for many years until one day he came back from a scouting expedition to find his wife had died. On her deathbed, Mrs. Noonan had begged that her body be buried directly and not bathed and prepared for burial. But Mrs. Custer and the ladies did not heed her request. Mrs. Custer left to pick wild flowers for her dead friend. She returned only to discover that Mrs. Noonan had, in fact, been a man. Bereft of the loss of his wife, Corporal Noonan killed himself several days later. Elizabeth Custer was not judgmental. "Poor old dear," she said of Mrs. Noonan. "I hope she is finally 'comf.'"

"Frontier Gayeity" was originally posted May 14, 2019 on Facebook and 126,036 reached / 2,118 likes


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Deborah Hufford

Author, Notes from the Frontier

Deborah Hufford is an award-winning author and magazine editor with a passion for history. Her popular blog with 100,000+ readers has led to an upcoming novel! Growing up as an Iowa farmgirl, rodeo queen and voracious reader, her love of land, lore and literature fired her writing muse. With a Bachelor's in English and Master's in Journalism from the University of Iowa, she taught students of Iowa's Writer's Workshop, then at Northwestern University, Marquette and Mount Mary. Her extensive publishing career began at Better Homes & Gardens, includes credits in New York Times Magazine, New York Times, Connoisseur, many other titles, and serving as publisher of The Writer's Handbook


Deeply devoted to social justice, especially for veterans, women, and Native Americans, she has served on boards and donated her fundraising skills to Chief Joseph Foundation, Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), Homeless Veterans Initiative, Humane Society, and other nonprofits.  


Deborah's soon-to-be released historical novel, BLOOD TO RUBIES weaves indigenous and pioneer history, strong women and clashing worlds into a sweeping saga praised by NYT bestselling authors as "crushing," "rhapsodic," "gritty," and "sensuous." Purchase BLOOD TO RUBIES online beginning June 9. Connect with Deborah on, Facebook, and Instagram.

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