The dusty old trunk had been left behind by a previous owner of the home on South Prairieville Street that my friends purchased in the 1970s. We wondered what treasures it might hold, so we explored.

Inside, a tattered old telegram, yellowed with age, from the War Department in Washington, D.C. led off with the words every parent dreads: “We regret to inform you…..”

The telegram was addressed to Mr. and Mrs. J.T. Deen, the parents of Lt. Fred L. Deen, a 1901 West Point graduate.

Lt. Deen was stationed at Camp Stotsenburg, a U.S. Army base in the Philippine Islands. According to his obituary as published in the Athens Weekly Review, “On Oct. 17, 1904, he was shot through the head by Lieut. Pritchurd, who immediately shot himself through the heart, dying instantly.” Somewhere else I had read that Pritchurd had gone crazy “from the heat,” but I cannot locate my source now.

Lt. Deen’s grandfather, James M. Deen, built the Deen Hotel on the square in Downtown Athens in 1855, five years after the town was founded. The building has since been remodeled and is now occupied by The First State Bank of Athens. Lt. Deen’s father served as District Clerk of Henderson County for 16 years.

Lt. Deen is buried at the Athens Cemetery just up the street from his former home. His headstone can be seen today, not far from the grave of noted Athenian, Clint Murchison, Sr.

Submitted by James R. Kittles, native Athenian and retired attorney.

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