I offer this piece today without political opinion, but with hope that facts will help us bring about a broader dialogue of evil.
|New school building in Bath, MI, 1927|
New York Times, May 19, 1927:
BATH, Mich., May 18. - The insane revenge of a man maddened by financial worries brought death to at least thirty-three children today when the Consolidated School in this little village of 300 souls, eight miles north-east of Lansing, was dynamited just after the morning bell had called the classes together.
Forty-one dead have been identified and one is still unknown.
The north end of the school collapsed, and undoubtedly there are bodies buried in the debris. From eighty-five to ninety-five were injured.
Andrew Kehoe, Treasurer of the village School Board, was the man who placed in the basement of the school the dynamite that wrecked one wing of the bullding and brought death and injury to children and teachers. Kehoe's house and barn, a mile or so out of town, were destroyed in another explosion and fire caused by himself a little before the blast in the school.
Kehoe himself was killed, together with Emory E. Huyck, Superintendent of the school, in a third explosion, this one in Kehoe's car as it stood in front of the demolished sohool a half hour after the disaster there.
A mortgage on Kehoe's farm was foreclosed last week. He was heard to complain that the high school taxes made it impossible for him to lift the mortgage. It is believed Kehoe's mad act was caused by his desire for revenge on the School Board.
One teacher was killed and three seriously injured. The village postmaster was injured and later died.Hunt for Bodies by Searchlight
Under the lurid glare of searchlights, playing on a tangled bed of ruins, State Police and volunteer workers continued the search tonight for missing children. The list of dead was placed at forty-two late tonight by Prosecuting Attorney Kelly Searl of Clinton County, who is directing the rescue work.
Forty-four of the seriously injured were in Lansing hospitals and between forty and fifty, with minor injuries were in their homes here.
Witnesses say that Kehoe sat in his automobile in front of the school and gloated as he watched the bodies of the children hurled into the air by his diabolical plot. Then, as the ruins of the wrecked building settled on the dead and dying children, he fired the dynamite in his own automobile killing himself, Huyck, Glenn Smith, postmaster, and Smith's father-in-law, Nelson McFarren.
RDB note: incorrect that Kehoe was there at the time of the explosion.
|Bath schoolhouse after explosion that killed 37 children|
and 6 adults on May 18, 1927.
I have read other reports that speculated that Kehoe was also angry and seeking revenge after a loss in a local school board election, but I was not able to verify that speculation. Kehoe planted dynamite in the school for months planning to take the entire school out, and only a failure of his detonation system prevented the entire school from being leveled.
The following is the obituary for one child killed in the bombing:
Arnold Victor Bauerle, born in Dewitt township, February 15, 1919, was in the third grade. Even at that age he had a great head for figures.
He asked to be given numbers which often ran into the millions.
His father often told him he would never be a farmer because he ate so slow.
He was always busy at something. If not in school, he was playing baseball.
Arnold wanted to go to Lansing with his parents on the day he was killed, but he had had whooping cough and had been out of school so much that they thought he ought not stay out of school any more. They were in Lansing at the time of the blast at the school.
He is survived by his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bauerle, one brother and one sister.
Interment was in the Dewitt cemetery.
New York Times, May 20, 1927:
SCHOOL DYNAMITER FIRST SLEW WIFE
Charred Body of Mrs. Kehoe Is Found In Ruins at Home That Michigan Maniac Blew Up.
DEATH LIST NOW TOTALS 44
Said to Have Mania for Killing, He Is Believed to Have Planned School Destruction for Weeks.
GOVERNOR STARTS AID FUND
Bath Villagers, Stunned by Awful Deed Console One Another as They Prepare to Bury Little Ones.
BATH, Mich., May 19. - Still stunned by the deed of the madman Andrew Kehoe, who yesterday killed his wife and then blew up the consolidated school here and his own automobile causing the death of forty-three persons, including himself, this little community today was groping its way through tears trying to meet the awful consequences of the tragedy.
Sad-faced parents of the thirty-seven children killed in the school came to console one another in their grief, but funeral arrangements were left until tomorrow.
Governor Fred W. Green Issued a proclamation appealing to the people of Michigan to raise funds with which to rebuild the school and to provide relief in cases where families were deprived of support by the catastrophe.
John W. Ferrer and Richard H. Scott of Lansing and Schuyler Marshall of St. Johns were named the committee to receive and dispose of the funds. The little village of 300 inhabitants is virtually bankrupt as a result of the disaster.
The deaths of Mrs. Blanche Hart, 30, a teacher, and of Oleo Clayton, 8, a pupil, in a Lansing hospital, today brought the total dead to forty-four.Kehoe's Wife Slain and Burned.
The finding of the body of Kehoe's wife this morning by deputy sheriffs was not entirely unexpected. State troopers had combed the State for her last night, following clues that she was in a sanatorium. When this inquiry failed, attention was directed to the ruins of the home, which Kehoe blew up yesterday before he set off the blast at the school.
Though charred beyond recognition, the body was found in plain sight on a milk cart, near a hen coop, the only building on the farm that was not destroyed. Dynamite was found buried under some straw in it.
It is the belief of Prosecuting Attorney William C. Searl that Kehoe either cut his wife's throat or beat in her skull and then tied her to the cart and set it afire. Piled around the cart were silverware, jewels and a metal cash box. Through a slit in the cash box could be seen the ashes of several bank notes.
Officers were unable to account the burning during the night of a davenport, a small table and three chairs that members of a Consumers Power road crew had taken out of the burning house yesterday morning. All this was intact last night, but in ashes this morning.
O.H. Buck, foreman of the road crew, and several of his assistants unknowingly risked their lives in the explosion and fire at the Kehoe farm yesterday morning and again at the school.Narrow Escape From Death.
Buck gave the following account of what happened:
"Arriving near the Kehoe place we saw that the buildings were afire and speeded up. The south side of the house was in flames when we got there. We run around to the north windows and two of us crawled in. We shoved out a davenport, a table and some chairs.
"Then, in a corner of the room, I found a pile of dynamite. Without thinking much about what I was doing, I picked up an armful and handed it to one of the men. The room was filled with smoke, so we got out.
"Then I heard a woman across the road yelling that the school had been blown up. We started for our car and had just arrived there when a terrific blast let go in the house behind us. I was slammed against the car.
"We got in and drove rapidly to Bath. A tragic scene confronted us at the school. The north half of the building was a jumble of debris. Several men were digging into the wreckage. We could hear the voices of the imprisoned children calling for help. I ran across the lawn and began helping.
"I had no more than started when I was bowled over by an explosion at the roadside. I got up and looked around. A great cloud of black smoke was rolling up. Under it, I saw the tangled remains of a car. Part of a human body was caught in the steering wheel. Three or four other bodies were lying on the ground near by.Seemed Like End of the World.
"I began to feel as though the world was coming to an end. I guess I was a hit hazy. Anyway, the next thing I remember I was out on the street. One of our men was binding up the wounds of Glenn Smith, the postmaster. His leg had been blown off. I went back to the building and helped with the rescue work until we were ordered to stop while a search was made for dynamite."
The placard "criminals are made, not born", found wired to a fence on the Kehoe farm, may give an inkling to the psychology of the man who with measured deliberation, it is believed, attempted to wreak vengeance on this community for what he felt was the high tax imposed on him and other financial troubles.
Evidence disclosed today indicates that he mapped out his plans months ago. He was notified last June that the mortgage on his farm would be foreclosed, and that may have been the circumstance that started the clockwork of anarchy and madness in his brain.
M.W. Keys, Superintendent of the School Board, said Kehoe appeared to have a tax mania and fought the expenditure or money for the most necessary equipment.Chance to Prepare for Dynamiting.
"I have no doubt that he made his plans last Fall to blow up the school", Keyes declared. He was an experienced electrician and the board employed him in November to make some repairs on the school lighting system. He had ample opportunity then to plant the explosives and lay the wires for touching it off."
Prosecutor Searl revealed that a shattered alarm clock had been found in the basement of the school and that it was connected with a battery and wires leading to various caches of dynamite and gunpowder. The face of the clock was intact. The hands pointed to 8:45.
Bernice Sterling, first grade teacher, who escaped injury, said she telephoned Kehoe yesterday morning and asked permission to use his grove for a picnic for her class. He told her that if she "wanted a picnic she would better have it at once."
Evidence that Kehoe was plannlng his scheme early in April was brought out at the inquiry before State Fire Marshal Charles V. Lane and the Clinton County Prosecutor today. Neighbors testified that he was wiring the buildings at his farm about that time and that he evaded questions regarding his purpose.
Numerous witnesses declared that Kehoe had an ungovernable temper and that he developed a mania for killing things. He beat one of his horses to death last Spring, it was stated.
The man was known through the countryside as a "dynamite farmer". Neighbors detailed how he was continually setting off blasts on his farm, blowing up stumps and rocks.Pyrotol Found in School Debris
The wiring for the explosions in Kehoe's house and outbuildings was complicated. A timing apparatus was found in the chicken coop. Wires were found leading to the house and barns from the telephone lines passing on the road in front of the house. Kehoe evidently intended to tap the telephone lines for current to set off the dynamite. The explosion destroyed only the small part of the house; fire did the rest.
One of the rescue workers digging in the debris of the school found a quantity of pyrotol, a war salvage explosive distributed to farmers by the Federal Government, between a floor and a ceiling above the coal bin in the the part of the building left standing. About two bushels of sticks were removed.
In the basement State troopers found a small container filled with gasoline, so fitted that the natural expansion of the gas would force the inflammable vapor through a tube to a spark gap. When this point had been reached the gas could have been exploded by one pressing an electric button, and burning gasoline would have been scattered throughout the basement.
It is the belief of investigators that Kehoe meant to burn the building if the dynamiting failed.
Special thank you to Ronald D. Bauerle, great-nephew of Arnold Bauerle, who was killed at eight years-old in the bombing. Baurele's work is quite extensive and is the best resource for information regarding the Bath bombing and mass-murder I have found om the Internet. Click to see entire research page.
It is natural to think we are living in times that produce a special level of evil, but its important to understand that evil exists and cannot be willed away by good thoughts and intentions. Hard work, vigilance and a true understanding of the reality of our world is our only protection against evil.
Emotionalism does not solve problems, intellectual, honest discussion does.