The Bath School massacre, was a series of violent attacks perpetrated by Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927 in Bath Township, Michigan which killed 38 elementary schoolchildren and 6 adults and injured at least 58 other people. Kehoe killed his wife and firebombed his farm, then detonated an explosion in the Bath Consolidated School before committing suicide by detonating a final device in his truck.It is the deadliest mass murder to take place at a school in United States history.
Andrew Kehoe was the 55-year-old school board treasurer and was angered by increased taxes and his defeat in the Spring 1926 election for township clerk. He was thought to have planned his “murderous revenge” after that public defeat.Kehoe left behind a stenciled sign on his farm fence that read “Criminals are made, not born.”
He had a reputation for difficulty on the school board and in personal dealings. In addition, he was notified that his mortgage was going to be foreclosed upon in June 1926. For much of the next year, a neighbor noticed that he had stopped working on his farm and thought that he might be planning suicide. During that period, Kehoe purchased explosives and discreetly planted them on his property and under the school.
Prior to May 18, Kehoe had loaded the back seat of his truck with all sorts of metal debris capable of producing shrapnel during an explosion. He also bought a new set of tires for his truck so it wouldn’t break down when transporting the explosives. He didn’t want it to look suspicious that his truck was full of dangerous products. He made many trips to Lansing for more explosives, as well as the school, town, and his house.
Many of his neighbors noticed how busy he was driving around, but never thought to make any comment about it. Multiple times, a neighbor to the school saw a man carrying objects into the building at night, but never thought to mention it to anyone.
Nellie Kehoe had been discharged on May 16 from Lansing’s St. Lawrence Hospital. Between her release and the bombings two days later, Kehoe killed his wife. He put her body in a wheelbarrow located in the rear of the farm’s chicken coop, where it was found in a heavily charred state after the farm explosions and fire. Piled around the cart were silverware and a metal cash box. Ashes of several bank notes could be seen through a slit in the cash box. Kehoe had placed and wired homemade pyrotol firebombs in the house and all the buildings of the farm. The burned remains of his two horses were found tied in their enclosures with their legs wired together, to prevent their rescue during the fire.
Classes began at 8:30 a.m. that morning. At about 8:45 a.m., in the basement of the north wing of the school, an alarm clock set by Kehoe detonated the dynamite and pyrotol he had hidden there.
Rescuers heading to the scene of the Kehoe farm fire heard the explosion at the school building, turned back and headed toward the school. Parents within the rural community also began rushing to the school. The school building had turned into a war zone] with thirty-eight people, mostly children, being killed in the initial explosion.
First-grade teacher Bernice Sterling told an Associated Press reporter that the explosion was like an earthquake:
“It seemed as though the floor went up several feet,” she said. “After the first shock I thought for a moment I was blind. When it came the air seemed to be full of children and flying desks and books. Children were tossed high in the air; some were catapulted out of the building.
About a half hour after the explosion, Kehoe drove up to the school and saw Superintendent Huyck. Kehoe summoned the superintendent over to his truck. Charles Hawson testified at the Inquest that he saw the two men struggle over some type of long gun and that the car then exploded.killing Superintendent Huyck, Kehoe, Nelson McFarren (a retired farmer)] and Cleo Clayton, an eight-year-old second grader. Clayton, a survivor of the first blast, had wandered out of the school building debris and was killed by the fragmentation from the exploding vehicle.
The explosion also mortally wounded postmaster Glenn O. Smith (who lost a leg and died later that day of his wounds) and injured several others.