72 years ago, Michigan town was scene of horrific school bombing

Blasts killed 45 people, including 38 children

Colorado School Shootings

April 23, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

Several U.S. newspapers and television networks called this week's mass killing in Littleton, Colo., "the worst U.S. school massacre." The people of Bath, Mich., a small farming town just outside Lansing, know differently.

On the sun-drenched morning of May 18, 1927, 45 people -- including 38 children -- were killed when an embittered school board official set off a series of bombs inside the town's three-story, brick schoolhouse. That horrific attack has been called the bloodiest ever on a U.S. school campus.

The bombing was front-page news then but has long since slipped from the national memory.

Andrew Kehoe, a 55-year-old farmer and treasurer of the Bath school board, was upset that the new Bath Consolidated School had been funded by a tax increase. The new tax threatened his farm with foreclosure, according to Wednesday's Detroit News.

Most of the dead were children ranging in age from 6 to 8. An Associated Press dispatch of the day reported that Kehoe wired the basement with "more than 500 pounds of dynamite scattered in various places."

Kehoe set off dynamite, "burying the teachers and pupils under tons of debris," The Associated Press wrote. Principal E.E. Huyck rushed to confront Kehoe, who was attaching another wire to more explosives inside his car. As the two men "grappled," the bomber fired a rifle into his car, setting off the explosives there.

Both Kehoe and Huyck were killed. Before setting off the blasts, Kehoe had killed "his wife and horses," the AP reported.

Like their contemporaries, the reporters of the day attempted to understand what could have prompted a seemingly ordinary man to commit such a crime.

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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