Tax revolts are certainly nothing new, but the Bath School Bombing of 1927 cannot help but make you wonder just how far certain members of today’s non-observant revolutionaries against what they wrongly consider to be a country that taxes them to death would go to stop the spread of things like bridges that don’t fall down and roads that don’t cause vehicles to get misaligned. The Bath School Bombing of 1927 is an iconic example of what can happen when American distrust of government meets good old American access to weapons of mass destruction.
His name was Andrew Kehoe and he was a failure as a farrmer. Andrew Kehoe and his wife Nellie owned 185 acres of farmland near the small village of Bath, Michigan. Sometime in 1922, voters in Bath made what would be a tragic mistake on their part by agreeing that their kids needed to be educated in a consolidated school. How to pay for such extravagance? Property tax rate increase, of course. The dastards!
Like many people you know or see on television today, Andrew Kehoe did not take kindly to the idea of having the taxes on his 185 acres raised. Didn’t matter that the outcome would be a better education for the kids living around Bath. While he was never what you’d call a successful farmer to begin with, Andrew Kehoe’s prospects seemed to decline rapidly following the vote for a consolidated school built on the taxes of families who didn’t even have kids. Then there was the fact that Nellie Kehoe was in bad health and the couple were having trouble paying their hospital bills. (Surely, Andrew Kehoe would be vehemently against taxes to pay for free health care.) In the polluted mind of farmer Kehoe, his failure was magnified by the higher property taxes he was being forced to pay.
But Andrew Kehoe, like a certain cartoon character named Dan, had a plan for revenge against that which had done him wrong.
1926 was the year that Andrew sweet talked those in charge of the school into allowing him to work as a maintenance man. Between that hiring and the day of May 18, 1927, Andrew Kehoe collected what can only technically be referred to as a crapload of explosives. Back then, you see, farmers regularly used dynamite in their work. For this reason, no flags were raised. Andrew Kehoe: the Timothy McVeigh of his day.
The day of May 18, 1927 began like so many others for Kehoe. There was one fairly important difference that took place in the morning. Andrew Kehoe took hold of a blunt instrument and violently smashed it against the head of his wife Nellie. He then placed her lifeless body in a wheelchair. But the violent response of Andrew Kehoe to an increase in his taxes was only just beginning. And it was about to get a whole lot worse. The bloodiest mass murder to take place at a school and the largest mass murder of children in American history (until Repubicans decided the right to own a gun outstrips all other human rights) lay in store.
But first Andrew Kehoe had to make sure that nobody profited from his profitless farm. At 8:45 AM, he detonated an explosion that set off a fire that destroyed the Kehoe farm. He then drove into town. The trunk of his vehicle was packed with all kinds of metal that would soon become deadly shrapnel. Exactly one hour after Andrew Kehoe set off his first explosion of the day, his second explosion of the day sent children, school desks and textbooks whizzing through the air. Just about every person in the town of Bath quickly arrived to help with the injured or search for their children. Shortly after 10:00 AM another person came to the scene to observe the wreckage. His name was Andrew Kehoe.
Kehoe quickly let his gaze come to rest upon Emory Huyck. Huyck was the Superintendent of Schools and a leading figure in the effort to raise property taxes to pay for the school. What all those with a brain that could think for itself was to Timothy McVeigh, Huyck was to Kehoe. When Kehoe motioned for Huyck to come over to him, he had no way of knowing that the third explosion of the day lay in wait. Kehoe took out a rifle from his car and fired it directly into the backseat. The metal stored in the trunk instantly became shrapnel that indiscriminately aimed for anyone standing in the vicinity. As is often the case with cowards who kill, the shot fired by Kehoe was also intended to take his own life. In addition to Kehoe, the third explosion resulted in the deaths of Emory Huyck and two other adults. The final victim of Andrew Kehoe’s madness was a second grader named Cleo Claton who had somehow miraculously survived the second explosion.
Andrew Kehoe was not a man to take down 38 children and 7 grown-ups and call it a day. The search for survivors went on until Kehoe’s chilling final surprise was uncovered: 500 pounds of dynamite that had been set to detonate at the same time as the initial school explosion. The village of Bath, Michigan quickly realized that they had actually been the recipient of good luck on that horrible, bloody day. The bomb had not gone off and countless other lives had been spared.
A sign was found on the fence of Andrew Kehoe’s farm. The words say much about the type of individual who looks to things like rising taxes as the source of their woe:
Criminals are Made, Not Born.