The Bath School disaster was three bombings in Bath Township, Michigan, on May 18, 1927, which killed 38 school children, two teachers, four other adults and the bomber himself; at least 58 people were injured. Most of the victims were children in the second to sixth grades (7–14 years old) attending the Bath Consolidated School. This was one of the deadliest school massacres in the history of the United States.
The bomber was school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe, 55, who was enraged about a property tax made to fund the construction of the school building. He blamed the extra tax for financial hardships which led to the foreclosure of his farm. These events apparently provoked Kehoe to plan his attack. He died in a car bomb he set off after he drove up to the school as the crowd gathered to rescue survivors from the burning school.
On the morning of May 18, Kehoe murdered his wife by beating her to death, then set his farm buildings on fire. As fire fighters arrived at the farm, a bomb exploded the north wing of the school building, killing many schoolchildren. He used a detonator to ignite dynamite and pyrotol which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. As rescuers started gathering at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and detonated a bomb inside his rifle, killing himself and the school superintendent, and killing and injuring several others. During rescue efforts searchers discovered an additional unexploded dynamite and pyrotol planted throughout the basement of the school's south wing. Kehoe apparently had intended to blow up and destroy the whole school.
Andrew Kehoe was born in Tecumseh, Michigan on February 1, 1872, . Andrew was one of thirteen children. His parents were originally from western New York State. His mother passed away when Andrew was very young. Over time, his father re-married. But Andrew didn't get along with the stepmother and they often fought. One day, she attempted to light an oil stove in their kitchen. The stove exploded and set her afire, covered with oil. Andrew watched his stepmother burn without trying to help her. After a few minutes, he dumped a bucket of water on her and doused the flames. But the damage was done. She later died.
He attended Tecumseh High School and attended Michigan State College in East Lansing where he met his future wife, Nellie Price. Later, Andrew moved out west for several years. He spent time in Missouri where he suffered a severe head injury during a fall in St. Louis in 1911. He was attending an electrical school at the time of the accident. Kehoe drifted in and out of a coma for two months. Kehoe married in 1912 and moved in 1919, with his wife Ellen "Nellie" Price, to a farm they bought outside the village of Bath. Kehoe was regarded by his neighbors as an intelligent man who grew annoyed with those who disagreed with him. Neighbors also talked of how Kehoe was cruel to his farm animals, having once beaten a horse to death. Kehoe was elected treasurer of the Bath Consolidated School board in 1924. While on the board, Kehoe fought endlessly for lower taxes. He had blamed the previous property tax levy for his family's poor financial condition.
Records at Lansing's St. Lawrence Hospital revealed that Nellie Kehoe had been discharged on May 16. Between her release and the bombing two days later, Kehoe killed Nellie by what was later determined to be "blunt force trauma to the head with an unknown heavy object". Her body was found in a wheelbarrow located in the rear of the farm's chicken coop. Piled around the cart were silverware, jewels 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 all buildings of the farm. Farm animals were found tied up in their enclosures, apparently to ensure their deaths in the fire.
At approximately 8:45 a.m. Kehoe detonated...
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