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Published 5/18/2020
9:51am

It's Been 93 Years Since the Bath School Disaster

WATCH: New Video Documentary Tells the Story of Bath Today and of Those Working to Preserve the Information and Artifacts of America's Worst Mass-Casualty School Event

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Three24 Films/YouTube

It was 93 years ago this morning that Andrew KeHoe, a farmer frustrated with an increase in taxes in the small town of Bath, Michigan, a loss in a recent run for political office and the foreclosure of his property, took the lives of 45 people, most of them children.

Kehoe was a school board trustee and had access to the Bath Consolidated School building in the summer of 1926, having been hired to perform some work on lighting in the building.  That access allowed him to, over a period of time, hide dynamite in the basement of the school.

Eventually, he set a timer.

There's more to the story!  Keep reading!

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At approximately 8:45am on May 18th 1927, an explosion destroyed the north wing of the school building.  It would later be found that dynamite placed under the south wing failed to detonate.  There would surely have been more deaths.

At nearly the same time of the school explosion, Kehoe firebombed his home and farm buildings.  Kehoe had already taken the life of his wife and destroyed crops.

After firebombing his home and farm buildings, and after the dynamite had exploded under the north wing of the school, Kehoe drove his dynamite and shrapnel-filled truck to the school and detonated it, killing himself and several others.

The Bath School Disaster remains the worst mass-casualty incident at a school in America.

A new video documentary released on Saturday tells the story of the Bath community today, and the committee that has worked to honor and preserve the memory of those that were lost.

Susan Hagerman is the Director of the Bath School Museum.  In the video, she says that everyone on the museum's committee is directly related to someone that was in the explosion.  But she said "once we're gone, that's gonna be it," unless a younger generation -- the third and even fourth generation -- steps in to preserve the information and artifacts.  Hagerman said "We're always trying to get younger people on our museum committee."

Each year, the committee hosts the "Golden Alumni Reunion."  The event is typically held on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of the disaster.  Planned this year for this past Saturday, May 16th; due to Coronavirus, the reunion was cancelled.  It's the first time the reunion was cancelled since it began in the 1980s.

A rain or shine vigil is planned for Monday evening at 7pm, where the names of those lost will be read.  It will be held at James Couzens Memorial Park.

The video's director, Ben Goldman, has been working on the film since September, and wrote in a post on the Bath School Museum Facebook page that a longer-form version is forthcoming.

Author Arnie Bernstein is featured in the film.  Learn more about his book Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing here.

There's a lot more from Perry-Laingsburg Pulse and Integrity to see and hear, including this week's top stories! Keep going!

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