Bath School Disaster – 1927

By | November 12, 2016

“Children were tossed high in the air; some were catapulted out of the building”

bath-school-disaster

The demolished north wing of Bath Consolidated School

THE CRIME:

Bath Township is a small community located 16 km (10 mi) northeast of Lansing, Michigan. In the late spring of 1927 it was the venue for three bombings, which killed 45 people and injured 58. Most of those who died were pupils aged between seven and 12 at Bath Consolidated School. It was the deadliest act of mass murder in an American school.

That morning school treasurer Andrew Philip Kehoe, who had money worries thanks to a property tax that led to foreclosure proceedings against his farm, murdered his 52-year-old tubercular wife, Ellen “Nellie” Price, by hitting her over the head. He then dumped her body in a wheelbarrow by the hen house. At 8.45am he set fire to his home, ensuring the animals were tethered so they would all burn to death. He had placed explosives at the farm to ensure maximum damage.

As firemen arrived at the farm the north wing of the school building was destroyed in an explosion at 9.45am. Kehoe had over the previous few months planted explosives in and around the school building. Teacher Bernice Sterling 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.” People rushed towards the north wing to help as Kehoe drove up in his car at 10.15am. He had filled the car with metal tools, nails, rusty farm implements and explosives. He detonated the car, killing himself and the school superintendent, Emory E. Huyck, 33, and murdering and injuring several others. Thirteen ambulances were at the school by the afternoon to ferry the injured to hospital and remove the remains of the dead. Police found a wooden sign at Kehoe’s farm bearing the legend, “Criminals are made, not born.”

WHERE:

Bath Township, Michigan, USA

WHEN:

9.45am Wednesday 18 May 1927

THE AFTERMATH:

Search teams found another 227 kg (500 Ib) of explosives hidden in the basement of the school’s south wing. With it was a tinier set for 9.45am but no one knows why it did not work.

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

When he was 14, Kehoe’s stepmother accidentally set herself on fire. He watched her burn for several minutes before dousing the flames. She later died of her injuries.

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