Even the most recent school shootings like Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland pale by comparison.
On a beautiful Michigan spring morning in 1927, while lilacs were blooming and children were playing, a sometimes benevolent, sometimes charming yet often angry Andrew Kehoe intentionally blew up the local consolidated elementary school in Bath Township. The multi-roomed, two-story schoolhouse was filled with unsuspecting children and the carnage of their young bodies was gruesome, with layers of blood and dust covering the children while their screams pierced the air.
Thirty-eight children and seven adults were violently blown apart and murdered that May 18 morning in 1927 in Bath Township, Michigan, making it the worst school massacre ever in the United States. Even the most recent school shootings like Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland pale by comparison.
Known to be a thorny, complex and cheap man with a bad temper, Andrew was so violent that he once beat his own horse to death for being lazy. Yet he was also known for his kindness, benevolence and good manners. Mr. Kehoe preceded his schoolhouse massacre by first killing his wife, Nellie, just released from the hospital and suffering from tuberculosis. Sometime in the two days before the bombing, he crushed her skull. On the morning of the bombing, he detonated the explosives he had planted in his house and farm outbuildings, taking pains to wire together the legs of two horses so they could not flee the burning barn. The horses were burned alive.
Born in Bath Township, Michigan in 1872, Mr. Kehoe had a great distaste for taxes. After a tax increase to cover the building of Bath Consolidated School in 1922, Andrew was elected to the school board in 1924 as trustee and treasurer. His personal intention as school board member was to fight the tax increase. As it turned out, he was indeed a zealous opponent of taxation and fought all taxes, even for essential expenditures. After a brief appointment as temporary Town Clerk, he ran for that same position but lost the election in 1926. It is believed this rejection was the trigger for his rampage to come.
Although he was a farmer, he was also an electrician and the best-suited individual in the community to repair the school’s new electrical lighting system, which allowed him complete access to the school twenty-four hours a day. When school was out of session, during the summer vacation of 1926, he began planting pyrotol and dynamite in every available crevice, planting 600 pounds overall to blow up the entire school while it was filled with children.
The crime of murdering children with such complete lack of conscience is difficult to fathom to this day. Although known as a difficult and complex man who easily took slight, no one understood how the loss of an election fueled sufficient rage to murder these children. After the schoolhouse exploded, he drove up in his truck, also filled with dynamite and shrapnel, and called over Emory Huyck, the school board superintendent. He then blew up his truck as he sat in it, killing himself, another child and the superintendent. At the end of his spree, 45 people were dead and fifty-eight wounded. Of the 600 pounds of dynamite he planted, only a short circuit prevented 500 pounds from exploding and taking down the rest of the schoolhouse.