I wrote an article about the very first school massacre in recorded American history called the Enoch Brown School Massacre, which was perpetrated by Native Americans. Now, I am going to tell you about the largest school massacre in American history and one you have probably never heard of. It occurred in Bath Township, Michigan in 1927.
The Bath School Massacre occurred on May 18, 1927 and was committed by a man named Andrew Kehoe. Andrew Kehoe was the school board treasurer and was very upset with the constant increased taxes of the school district and was seemingly upset when he lost the bid for the Bath Township Clerk position in a spring election in 1926. It was this election defeat that people believe caused him to plan his murderous revenge on the town by killing people with dynamite and pyrotol.
Pyrotol is an explosive device made available after World War I and reprocessed from military surplus. It is used in combination with dynamite to create an incendiary explosion. Pyrotol was commonly used by farmers to clear their land of tree stumps and for blowing up ditches. In 1928 it came off of the market for farm use as the military surplus dwindled.
Andrew Kehoe had a reputation for being a difficult member of the school board and in personal affairs. He was also notified that his farm was going to be foreclosed on in June of that year as well. For most of the next year, Kehoe stopped working on his farm and purchased explosives, which I guess was not uncommon for farmers to do so then, and he discreetly placed them around his farm and under the Bath Township School.
In May of 1927, Nellie Kehoe, his wife, was released from the hospital after being treated for an undefined illness. It was sometime between May 16th and May 18th when Andrew Kehoe murdered his wife, Nellie. Approximately 8:45 on the morning of May 18th, Kehoe set off the dynamite and pyrotol on his farm, burning the house and other structures on his farm. Almost at the same moment, being on a timer, the same explosives detonated at the Bath Consolidated School building, destroying the north wing of the building and killing 38 people. 36 of them were children. The remaining two were teachers.
When rescuers began working at the school, Andrew Kehoe drove up to it, saw the school superintendent and called him over to his truck; a truck filled with dynamite and shrapnel. An eye witness said he saw Kehoe and the superintendent struggling over a long rifle and then the truck exploded. The explosion killed the superintendent, a local retired farmer, the local postmaster and an eight-year-old boy who had survived the initial explosion at the school. The boy wandered out of the debris of the school only to be killed by shrapnel from the truck explosion. When it was all said and done, 38 school children were found dead, six adults had died and 58 other people were injured.
The massacre could have been much worse because underneath the south wing of the school, rescue workers found about 500 pounds of dynamite with a timer on them that was set to go off at the same time as the original explosion, but failed to detonate.