The Bath School Disaster
On May 18, 1927, the small town of Bath, Michigan, was forever changed when Andrew Kehoe set off a cache of explosives concealed in the basement of the local school. Thirty-eight children and six adults were dead, among them Kehoe, who had literally blown himself to bits by setting off a dynamite charge in his car. The next day, on Kehoe’s farm, what was left of his wife—burned beyond recognition after Kehoe set his property and buildings ablaze—was found tied to a handcart, her skull crushed.
By Monty J. Ellsworth
First published in 1927 by the author
I have lived in Bath Township thirteen years, where I successfully conducted a general store, wholesale butchered, and bought poultry. During this time I have become personally acquainted with nearly every child in the school. I have known Andrew P. Kehoe since he moved here in the Spring of 1919. For the last two years I have lived within sixty rods east of his home. I have tried to tell every detail of the disaster that would be of interest to the reader. Everything written, is the truth to the best of my ability.
School started in the new consolidated school November 1922. The census showed that year two hundred and thirty-six scholars. The census of 1926 was three hundred and fourteen scholars, making a fine gain of seventy eight from the time it started. The census taken this year since the blast was two hundred and seventy-three, making a loss of forty-one. There were thirty-eight children killed in the disaster and of course there were some people who moved away, but in nearly all cases some one moved back to replace them.
Of course it made taxes higher and they will continue to be high until the school is paid for. The district during this time has purchased and paid for five acres of land to be used as an athletic field, bought and paid for two lighting plants, and also paid interest and eight thousand dollars on the principal, leaving the township still bonded for thirty-five thousand dollars on the school. When this bond is paid, I don’t think the school taxes will be any higher than they were in 1922. The school taxes run as follows: 1922, they were $12.26 on a thousand dollars valuation; in 1923, $18.80; in the year 1924, $18.50; in 1925, $19.20; and in the year 1926, $19.80. What made the taxes higher in 1926 was because twenty-two hundred dollars interest and five thousand dollars on the principal was paid.
A consolidated school is expensive in a small community, but there are a great many other things to look at. The children don’t have to wade through the snow and mud; they are picked up at the door. A great many people appreciate not having their children playing along the road with rough children and standing a chance of being attacked by some lawless ruffian. The parents can feel that their children are safe from the time they leave the door to the time they are brought back, the bus drivers being selected from the most responsible men of the community who make application. This is a broad statement to make right after the terrible catastrophe that happened at our school.