The Unforgettable Horrors of the Bath School Massacre


The deadliest school massacre in American history.


The Bath School Massacre was a series of bombings that took place in Bath Township, Michigan on May 18, 1927. The attacks were carried out by a local farmer named Andrew Kehoe, on the last day of the school year. He killed 38 elementary school children and six adults before taking his own life. At least 58 others were injured. It was the deadliest school massacre in American history.

It made headlines throughout the nation. But much of the national media attention of the massacre was diverted to coverage of Charles Lindbergh’s Trans-Atlantic flight.

Explosives recovered from under the schoolExplosives were recovered from under the school. Source

Possible motives

The Bath School building had only been built five years earlier to consolidate the local, rural schools. Kehoe, was a 55-year-old school board treasurer. The increased taxes from the new school made Kehoe furious. He also felt humiliated by a defeat in the April 5, 1926, election for township clerk. Kehoe was also facing a foreclosure on his farm and his wife was chronically ill with tuberculosis.

Monty Ellsworth, one of Kehoe’s neighbors described him as “the world’s worst demon.”

Kehoe, who was also an experienced electrician, spent much of the next year hiding explosives under the school’s floors.

The massacre

At 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, May 18, Kehoe detonated the firebombs in his house and farm buildings. The explosions sent debris into a neighbor’s poultry-brooding house. His wife was killed in the explosions. Neighbors noticed the fire, and volunteers and rushed to the farm. A volunteer named O.H. Bush discovered dynamite in the corner of the house. Before Kehoe fled the scene in his Ford truck, he stopped to tell the people fighting the fire to head over to the school.

Massacre Kahoe House RemainsThe ruins of the Kehoes’ farm after the explosion. Source.

Meanwhile, at the same time (8:45 a.m.) Kehoe’s explosives under the school were detonated using an alarm clock hidden in the school’s basement. The north wing of the school collapsed, dropping the edge of the roof on the ground.

Kehoe was witnessed driving toward the school with a grin on his face. He pulled up to the school about half an hour after the first explosion. He saw Superintendent Huyck and summoned him over to his truck. Kehoe reportedly pulled out a long gun and men tried to pry it out of his hands before Kehoe detonated the dynamite in his truck, which immediately killed himself and four others including a wounded second grader that survived the first round of blasts.

The truck explosion spread debris over a large area and caused damage to cars parked a half-block away, with their roofs catching on fire from the burning gasoline.

Bath school disaster damageBath School damage on the front of building. Source


An eyewitness named Robert Gates said this about the chaotic scene:

“Mother after mother came running into the schoolyard, and demanded information about her child and, on seeing the lifeless form lying on the lawn, sobbed and swooned … In no time more than 100 men were at work tearing away the debris of the school, and nearly as many women were frantically pawing over the timber and broken bricks for traces of their children. I saw more than one woman lift clusters of bricks held together by mortar heavier than the average man could have handled without a crowbar.”

On the site where the school stood is now the James Couzens Memorial park. The cupola of the original school is displayed.

The damaged wing of the school was rebuilt. Most of the surviving students returned.

It could’ve been worse

Kehoe had wired 600 pounds of explosives through the school, but only 100 pounds exploded. Experts believe the initial explosion caused a short circuit that prevented the detonation of the other bombs, but the reason why they didn’t explode has never been conclusively determined.

Today, the Bath School massacre is remembered as a tragic and shocking event that continues to haunt the community and serves as a reminder of the devastating consequences of hatred and violence. Unfortunately, recent school shootings have brought this event back into focus.


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