The Bath School Disaster: America’s Forgotten School Bombing

Columbine, Virginia Tech,  Sandy Hook. These schools know the grief and sorrow that domestic terrorism brings. However, 72 years before Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold fired their first shots into their student peers, a disgruntled man by the name of Andrew Kehoe detonated bombs in the Bath Consolidated School on May 18th, 1927, killing over 40 people–including 38 school children.

Bath_School_Disaster-east

Bath School after the detonation. Image from Wikimedia Commons

The Culprit

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Andrew Kehoe.    Wikimedia Commons

 

Andrew Kehoe was the treasurer of the school board, having been elected in 1924. While on the school board, Kehoe was an incredibly stubborn person. If things did not go his way, he would call for the adjournment of the meeting. In 1925, he was appointed as acting township clerk after the death of the previous one, Mrs. Bert Detluff. In 1926, he ran for the official position, only to be defeated due to his stubborn and standoffish personality. At the same time, his wife, Nellie Kehoe, suffered from Tuberculosis. This could only fuel his frustration with the world. At this point, Andrew Kehoe was a ticking time bomb.

It’s noted that Kehoe was also a talented electrician. In 1926, a year prior to the disaster, he did wiring repairs to the Bath school. It’s suspected that this is where he planned his murderous revenge.

 

The Bombing 

On the morning of May 18th, 1927, Disturbed and past the point of help, Kehoe blew up his home and farm before driving down to the school, which had been set on a time bomb. When he arrived, the north wing of the school was in shambles. Children and adults alike were confused and terrified at the destruction and death around them. However, Kehoe wasn’t done yet: in the back of his car laid explosives, scrap metal, bolts, and other sharp objects. In the front of his car was a loaded gun. After spotting Superintendent Emory Huyuk, a man he loathed, he called him over to his truck. From there, he fired his gun into the back of the car, setting off the explosives that instantly killed both Huyuk and Kehoe–as well as harmed surrounding citizens.

 

The Aftermath

Overall, 44 people became victims of Kehoe’s murderous act. An additional 58 were injured. The following morning after the disaster, police found Nellie Kehoe’s charred body on a milk cart just by the hen coop. Even she could not escape her husband’s revenge.

The town was virtually bankrupt from the disaster. Governor Fred W. Green encouraged the people of Michigan to help provide relief for the victims and to help raise funds to rebuild the school. Until the school could be rebuilt, classes were held in the township and community halls, as well as two retail stores.

To this day, the Bath School Disaster remains the United States’s worse mass murder to take place in a school. So how is it that such an incident has been put on the back shelves of history? It’s hard to tell. Is it because it happened so long ago?  Is it because we have cameras and other forms of media to capture the more recent mass murders in school? Regardless, the survivors and their families will always keep this tragedy near to their hearts.

Sources Used: (Give them a read if you’re interested in learning more)

The Bath School Disaster, as told by Monty J. Ellsworth.

http://criminal-justice.iresearchnet.com/crime/school-violence/bath-michigan-school-bombing/

Report of the Bath School Disaster from the New York Times.

 

 

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