Ripped from the headlines: A man kills his wife, and then goes to a school and kills 43 people, 38 of whom were children between the ages of 7 and 12, and injures 58 more before killing himself. Sandy Hook Elementary School? Nope.
The Bath School Disaster occurred on May 19, 1927 and shocked the nation. It’s still the deadliest mass murder in a school in US History. The reason most of us have never even heard about this tragedy is that three days later, Charles Lindbergh made his transatlantic flight to Paris, and the world’s attention was drawn toward that historic achievement.
The people of Bath, Michigan were understandably devastated. In a town with a population of 300, 48 deaths and 58 injuries leaves a heck of an impact. Andrew Kehoe, a local farmer, had packed the school with explosives. He timed the explosions to go off when the school was filled to capacity, and he meant for there to be more slaughter. There were an additional 500 pounds of dynamite and several sacks of gunpowder under the south wing of the school that didn’t go off. If they had, it may very well have taken out all of downtown.
Why did he do this? Well, the man wasn’t wrapped too tightly to begin with. He was known to shoot dogs and once beat one of his horses to death for being lazy. But then he experienced a series of setbacks which apparently sent him over the edge. His wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and that was an even more devastating diagnosis then than it is today. He also was on the verge of losing his farm, and then the town decided to increase taxes to pay for this modern new school, which was something Kehoe felt was unjust and unnecessary. So he decided to take matters into his own hands, to devastating effect.
To add insult to injury, after the explosions, as first responders gathered at the school, Kehoe drove up in a dynamite and shrapnel-filled car and detonated it, killing himself and killing or injuring several others. This was a man on a mission. He had a plan and he executed it.
So the next time someone tries to blame a school massacre on aspects of modern life, remember the Bath School Disaster. In a time before violent video games, crazy still existed. Perhaps when someone witnesses a man beating his horse to death, he should speak up. There are usually red flags. We just seem to keep ignoring them.
- “‘We Still Look at Ourselves as Survivors’: More Than Eighty Years Later, Remembering the Deadliest School Massacre in American History” By Justin Peters
- “Andrew Kehoe” in Wikipedia
The north wing of the Bath School after Kehoe was through with it.
[Image credit: daggy.name]