The worst school massacre in America was not Columbine in 1999 or even Virginia Tech in 2007. It did not involve a crazed student, or even a teacher.
It was carried out by a “pillar of the community” – a member of the school board and also its treasurer. It was carried out by a local politician angry because he had been defeated in a local election. And not a single person was shot with a gun.
Andrew Kehoe, according to M. J. Ellsworth, his neighbor and a survivor of the massacre who wrote a book about the tragedy, was “the world’s worst demon.”
Andrew Kehoe's mother died when he was quite young, Ellsworth wrote, and in time, his father married again. Andrew didn't get along very well with his stepmother. One day she went to town and returned about meal time. She went to light her oil stove, but someone had tampered with it and it exploded, saturating her with oil, and set her on fire. Andrew, then 14, stood and watched her burn for a while and then he got a pail of water and threw over her. It spread the flames and made them worse. His stepmother died from the effects.
A Catholic along with his wife, Kehoe was known to have ordered the priest off his property under threat of physical violence and never allowed his wife to attend church again. The priest had come to see why they had not attended recently.
He ran for the school board after taxes went way up in the township, and he promised to bring the taxes back down.
The Bath School disaster is the historical name of the violent attacks on May 18, 1927 in Bath Township, Michigan that killed 38 elementary school children (most of them 7-14 years old) and six adults, and injured at least 58 other people. Kehoe first killed his wife, fire-bombed his farm and set off a major explosion in the Bath Consolidated School, before committing suicide by detonating a final explosion in his truck. It is the deadliest mass murder in a school in United States history.
Andrew Kehoe, the 55 year old school board treasurer, was angry after his defeat in the spring 1926 election for township clerk. He was thought to have planned his "murderous revenge" after that public defeat and he had a reputation for difficulty on the school board and in personal dealings. In addition, in June 1926 he was notified that his mortgage was going to be foreclosed. For much of the next year, a neighbor noticed Kehoe had stopped working on his farm and thought he might be planning suicide. During that period, Kehoe purchased explosives and discreetly planted them on his property and under the school.
Kehoe's wife was ill with tuberculosis, and he had stopped making mortgage payments; he was under pressure for foreclosure. Some time between May 16 and the morning of May 18, 1927, Kehoe murdered his wife by hitting her on the head with a blunt object, then put her body in a wheelbarrow and burned it.
On the morning of May 18 at about 8:45 a.m., he set off various incendiary devices on his homestead that caused the house and other farm buildings to be destroyed by the explosives' blast and subsequent fires.
Almost simultaneously, an explosion devastated the north wing of the school building, killing many schoolchildren. Kehoe had used a timed detonator to ignite hundreds of pounds of dynamite [500 lbs.] and incendiary pyrotol, which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. As rescuers gathered at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and used a rifle to detonate dynamite inside his shrapnel-filled truck, killing himself, the school superintendent, and several others nearby, as well as injuring more bystanders.
During rescue efforts at the school, searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol connected to a timing device set for the same time as the first explosions; the material was hidden throughout the basement of the south wing. Kehoe had apparently intended to blow up and destroy the entire school.
After the bombings, investigators found a wooden sign wired to the farm's fence with Kehoe's last message, "Criminals are made, not born," written on it.
Bath School disaster
“The Bath School Disaster” by Monty J. Ellsworth – free online