Fred Dust in was a native of Glen Falls, New York, where he was born on October 12, 1866, the son of James and Jennie E. (Green) O'Donnell. His mother died during his early childhood, and his care was transferred to his aunt Sara, wife of Ira Dustin, who raised him. He later changed his name to Dustin.
His education was hampered by the necessity to earn a living, and at the age of 15 he began working in a lumber yard. In 1887, he moved to Michigan and expanded his work to include many odd jobs involving carpentry and becoming a building contractor. Mr. Dustin obviously had natural talents as to critical thinking and writing, as he began to receive commissions in 1929-1931 to perform archeological surveys for the University of Michigan and the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Along the way, Dustin became intensely interested in the Custer Battle, and devoted over 40 years to researching the events that led to the battle as well as the battle itself. This culminated in his noted work: The Custer Tragedy, one of the classics in Custeriana. In spite of this, and possibly due to limited resources, he only made one visit to the battlefield in August, 1938. But this was done with the likes of Kuhlman and Brininstool, and must have been a great time of sharing and heated discussions. Dustin was known for his staunch defense of Reno's actions during the battle and disdain for Custer. He spent much of his time and research compiling evidence to support his views. He died on May 15, 1957 at the age of 90.