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  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 29 - Andrew Kehoe and the Bath Twp. Massacre Pt. 3


Debri and rubble from Bath Twp. Bombing
The rubble that was once the Bath Consolidated School in Bath Twp., Michigan.

Bath Twp. Pt 3

It's been 96 years; it might sound like a cheesy spin-off from the famous line from James Cameron’s Titanic. But after 96 years of tears and sorrow, the tremors can still be felt through the ground for miles from May 18, 1927. 96 years the sound of shattering glass and crumbling bricks can still be heard. 96 years when ash billowing into the sky blocked out the sun. 96 years the smell of smoke muted the sweet smell of lilacs on a spring day. It's been 96 years since a madman silenced the laughter of the children of Bath Twp eagerly awaiting summer break in 1927.

While those surrounding the Kehoe farm are trying to extinguish the fires that have engulfed a majority of the buildings on the Kehoe farm and not knowing if anyone is inside O.H. Bush as he was only identified as a foreman for consolidated power, he and his men would enter the house through a window looking for any survivors. With no response from anyone inside as they called out inside, they decided to save what they could for the Kehoe's before fire consumed the entire house.

As Buck and his men are shoving chairs, a table, and a Davenport and what else they could find out of windows, Buck would be shocked that he would end up finding a cache of dynamite in the corner of the living room. Without even thinking about the consequences, he would scoop the dynamite up by the armful and pass it to his men outside. With the room filling with smoke Buck would finally order his men outside of the house. Three more of the Kehoe’s neighbors would show up due to seeing the farm on fire to help render aid wherever they can. One of the linemen would come running out of the house yelling “My god, there is enough dynamite in there to blow up the county!”

While across the road the Harte’s are trying to save their barn as embers from Kehoe’s barn are drifting across the street and landing on the Harte’s barn. Luckily for them, their barn roof would be damp still from the early morning thunderstorms that had just passed through. Lulu Harte would end up yelling to anyone that could hear her between the two farms “The schoolhouse is blowed.” Buck and his crew would quickly realize they would be needed at the school more than they are here. George Hall would think of his three children that attended the school and would to hell with this place as he and the linemen would shift their focus on the school. George Hall could hear up to six explosions at best he estimated as he raced down to the school.

At approximately 8:30 am 15 minutes before hell would be unleashed on Bath, Frank Smith and the repairman only named Mr. Harrington would enter the schools pump house so Harrington can start his work, and without at 8:45 am a deafening roar filled the basement knocking Harrington against a wall. Frank Smith being able to keep solid footing would ask “God's Sake what happened!?” As one of two 500 caches of explosives would denote under the North Wing of Bath Consolidated, with enough force for the walls to rise 4 feet and come crashing back onto the foundation. This caused the second floor and roof to collapse on the first floor and outward from their original construction. Followed by silence other than debris hitting the ground and the sudden screams of those inside.

Ms. Guntekunst turned the page, The elf touched the golden apple. As his fingers curled around the fruit, an enormous roar shook the building. The western wall of her classroom would explode inward smashing the empty desks that sat waiting for their assigned student. If she had not given in to her children they would have been crushed under the rubble. That story saved their lives.

As this bomb denoted the first-grade class of Bernice Sterling is doing their morning exercises as they are marching around the room before they are tossed like rag dolls, slamming into walls, and crashing through windows.

As the rest of the school was rocked by the explosion during final exams for seniors taking place in the assembly hall being conducted by Superintendent Hyuck, he would notice lights swinging wildly before one broke loose and smashing as it hits the ground.

As Hazel Weatherby’s classroom comes crashing down she would do her best to shield her students pulling two of them into her arms.

Not only did this bombing has major effects on the school house it did the neighboring homes as well. Windows of nearby homes would be blown out and the sound of the explosion would be heard for miles around Bath. Doty Cushman would recall that when drawing water for his horses, they would become spooked by the thunderous sound, causing his horse to rear back and leaving their eyes filled with terror. It was Louder and more intense than the thunderstorms that came through the night before. Several other farmers experienced the same thing causing some horses to break free from their plows.

Mrs. LaHall Warner that lived just one block away, would be pelted with glass from her porch window that she was hanging new curtains for that morning. She would end up running outside after this happened and unfortunately would witness the roof collapse on the North wing.

Sophomore Sylvester Barnard would be heaved out a window from the blast. Even though hitting the ground with a heavy thud he managed to pick himself up. Witnessing bodies strewn in every direction in front of the school some were dead, some dying, and some lying in pain before passing out.

Principal Huggett and the seniors would feel the church next door rock by the blast. Empty pews of the church would begin to roll over while Huggett steadied himself on a nearby desk getting his bearings as he and two students run from the building seeing a cloud of dust where the North wing once stood.

Josephine Cushman that had told her brother earlier this morning is picking flowers in the woods with her friends when they heard a loud boom causing the trees to rattle. Realizing it was from the direction of the school they would head in the direction of the school. As they round the corner of the nearby gas station an unknown man would shout to them “Hurry up! The school has blown up!”

Albert Detluff that had encountered Kehoe earlier that morning would just be starting his day at the blacksmith shop he had worked at. At the time of the blast, he had thought a car that was being worked on by one of the mechanics in the shop had slipped off the lift. Instead of finding a shop full of men working it was empty, “What is going on here?” he would call out but with no answer, he would run to the front side of the building finding a man shouting, “The school is blowed up!” and immediately think of his daughter Marcia who would be attending home economics as her first class of the day.

Evelyn Paul, the home economics teacher, would see a blinding flash accompanied by a deafening blast. And in a single moment, the classroom would be dark and filled with dust. In the dark, her students would ask “What is it?” almost as if they were crying. Like most, she was unsure what had happened and soon realize she was impaled by a large wood splinter through her shoulder.

Cleo Clayton would rescue himself by leaping through a window and running to the front lawn of the school and was safe.

Willett Whitney realized the school was a disaster, He hurried from the wreck of what was left of North Wing which had looked as if it was smashed by a giant hand trying to find someone in charge. He would end up finding Hyuck maintaining his professionalism as hell was thrust upon Bath. Urging the students trapped on the roof not to jump and to wait for ladders. “Go and get some ladders and help those scholars off the roof.” Hyuck would tell him. Without question, he did as he was told, and would run into Arthur Woodman and assist him with a ladder.

Mrs. Warner finally reaching the school after witnessing the destruction from her home would find Superintendent Hyuck still trying to bring order to the chaos that laid out before him. He would urge to her to bring ladders and axes as well still trying to convince the high school students not to jump and wait. This would more than likely be the best solution for them to come down instead of jumping to the shed roof below them and then to the ground. William Cressman would make his leap and realizing the roof wasn't big enough to hold two he quickly made his second jump hitting the ground with a thud. As other students made the same jump crashing down around him some would break their legs making these jumps.

The body of a seven-year-old girl could be seen hanging by her heels from a second-floor window, and due to the stairs to her classroom were destroyed and would not be reached until hours later when a ladder long enough to reach her was found. Sarah Schoals would volunteer to take her three blocks on her last walk home from school.

Frank Smith would finally get his bearings on where he was after the blast and darted up a staircase along with Harrington. Here they would see the children of Ms. Sterling and Ms. Guntekunt’s rooms lined up as if they were practicing a fire drill. Frank Smith and Harrington would escort these children to safety through the south door of the school.

The classroom where Eva Gubbins was giving her sixth graders a geography test now lays in ruins smashed by the classroom above. In a haze, she would come to realize she was trapped by a concrete beam crushing her legs and a radiator pressing into her back. As her eye adjusted to the darkness, she would soon realize she was face to face by mere inches of a schoolboy with his eyes frozen in time realizing he was dead. Unable to look away due to her head being pinned by the rubble she would do what she could not to look at his death stare as her screams would join those of those still trapped and injured.

Now with students from the roof on the ground, Emory Hyuck would start digging through the rubble to find anyone alive. The bodies of those whose light was extinguished too early would start to line the school's lawn by the townsfolk that came to rescue those trapped. As other children would emerge like moles from digging themselves out and transition from moles to ghosts roaming the grounds from being covered in the dust from the walls coming down.

Hyuck would find one student and gingerly pick him up and carry him to the telephone exchange and place him on a couch that someone had left there and Hyuck would return to the school. This student was Carlton Hollister, a fifth grader that would have been on the first floor if the class above didn’t have a test that day. It is believed that Carlton Hollister was the first alive but injured victim pulled from the rubble.

Homes became hospitals, bed sheets became bandages. The women of Bath would focus on making sandwiches and coffee for the men to keep their strength up for the rescue efforts. Strong backs and determination would replace cranes as workers peeled back the roof finding two boys huddled together their terror is replaced by relief as they run free from the rubble. If these two boys were found alive that mean more could be found.

Brick by brick. Beam by beam. Slowly the rescuers make their way through realizing just at a hands distance would be the body of a child. As their work continued the workers would prepare to move him to the growing morgue on the lawn where parents could be heard screaming in distress or relief when reunited with their children. But suddenly the trapped body sat up rubbing his eyes and let out a “phew” in relief as he ran off across the debris field and into the crowd before he got his name.

Even with 17-year-old Lenora Babcock instead the telephone exchange calling every surrounding town for help. The chief security officer of the Fishers Body plant in Flint would also end up calling his superiors and REO motors to “send every man that you can to Bath.” making them teammates for a day and not competitors.

Even with only 15 minutes gone by that felt like an eternity, unknowing to those hoping to find their children still alive in the twisted mess of the North Wing of Bath consolidated were completely unaware the world’s worst demon was on his way.

Job Sleight standing near the roadway would see a pickup truck driving east, first thinking its Monty Ellsworth making his return trip with ropes he went back home for. He slowly realized it was Andrew Kehoe. “What on Earth is he doing?” as Kehoe waved and headed East.

Farmer Homer Jennison would also interact with Kehoe, but Homer wouldn’t recognize the driver that nodded in respect to him as he passed. Passing Job, he would ask if that's Kehoe, as he could see the farm a blaze in the distance. Sleight replied that he thinks it was.

Monty Ellsworth drove south from the school and then West toward home. He would pass Kehoe driving East into town as he waved to Monty as they passed. Ellsworth would recall that Kehoe gave him a big, strange grin that he could see both rows of teeth.

Dart Lang and John Snively of Consolidated Power would show up to help replace those exhausted from digging at a fevered pace to trap those still alive. His fellow lineman John Curtis that had been on the scene already stopped them, “If you haven’t got a strong heart, you better not go up there.” Lang would reply for the both of them “Somebody better go up.”

“Hot Rail!” Lang shouted to Snivley as they dove into a ditch to being hit by the speeding truck. “What is the matter with that man? Is he crazy?” he asked Snivley as they watched the truck swerve to the right and into the school. What they didn’t know this truck belonged to Andrew Kehoe, and just as fast as the truck appeared moments later it would be gone in a flash as the smoke rose from the street.

Different variations happened next 30 minutes later after the first explosion at the school had detonated. But what happened was pieced together by eyewitness accounts and news reports.

When Andrew Kehoe arrived on the school grounds he called Huyck over to his truck. Where he would hurry over in a natural reaction place his foot on the running board of the truck and begin to inform Kehoe of what had happened being one of the members of the school board. It was unlikely that Huyck knew about the farm fire going on at the same time. Huyck upon reaching Kehoe’s truck would ask for his truck to haul poles and rope for the rescue efforts underway.

“Alright, I’ll take you with me.” Kehoe would tell Huyck and maybe by his intuition Huyck would then ask Kehoe “You know something about this don’t you?”

Myrna Gates Coulter would remember seeing Kehoe pull some sort of gun, thinking he was going to shoot Huyck. Some said it was a rifle some said a pistol, fired a shot inside the truck hitting the dynamite he had stashed away in his truck causing it to explode, sending out a rain of shrapnel in all directions.

This third and final explosion would end up killing Kehoe himself, Huyck, Glenn O. Smith, and Cleo Clayton, an eighth grader that survived the first explosion after he leaped from a window.

The remains of Huyck and Kehoe would be found sixty feet from where the truck lay smoldering. In the matter of what has been estimated to be 30 minutes total Kehoe would end up taking the lives of 44 people and injuring 58. Today, the Bath Twp. massacre is still the largest loss of life due to violence at a school in American history.

Eva Gubbins would be finally rescued 45 minutes later after she was located, and rescue efforts had to build a frame to support the weight of the debris around her before they could remove the beam pinning her in place.

At 10:20 AM, Michigan Secret Service Assistant Chief Lyle Morse and his assistant would arrive at Bath. Like many others, he suspected this to be a boiler explosion until he had witnessed the carnage himself. With Kehoe’s name swirled in the area for those arriving as the man who bombed the school. D.B. Huffman would find Morse and tell him about the box Kehoe had shipped off that morning to Lansing. The box that he had shipped off was to Clyde Smith, the school's insurance man. Smith would be contacted by Lyle Morse would get in contact Smith to find out if he had received a box that day. Smith would tell them he hasn’t received anything yet. Finding this box would be paramount as the contents were still unknown what was inside.

Nellie Cushman still desperate to find her son Ralph peered under the sheets covering the bodies of the lost children. Other parents doing the same praying that would not find what they are looking for. One father exhausted from rescuing those still trapped would unfortunately find his own son among the lost. “Well there’s Billy.” with nothing else that could be done for his own son he would return to ground zero to help the others to keep other hopeful parents to have the same outcome.

A mother searching for her own son lifted a sheet, finding a girl and not a boy. With the sunshine breaking through the dust she would begin to notice the girls eyes start to fluter. This was Josephine England, injured but not dead. “He's not dead! He's alive!” a voice could be heard. Dean Sweet first presumed dead by a neighbor looked at him sorrowfully, as he would begin to wiggle his toes. Dean would be taken to Lansing via hearse and not ambulance due to none being available at the time.

At 10:45 am rescue efforts would be brought to a halt as MSP Capt. John O’Brien and Ingaam County deputy discovered more dynamite hidden in the basement. Some of thse explosives were concealed by plaster to hide it, inside conduit running the length of the ceiling packed full. Ernest Halderman and Donald Mc Naughton of MSP police would work to disarm the petrol and dynamite with only their flashlights to see. In spaces too small for them 14 yo Chester Sweet volunteered to enter these small spaces. 504 pounds of dynamite and pyrotol would be pulled out of the basement on May 18.

By that afternoon people by droves would descend onto Bath like a swarm of Locust to catch a glimpse of the horrific scene.

Nine miles away in Lainsburg, Mi. The station manager checking the packages that were delivered but not yet picked up would find a box addressed to Clyde Smith of Lansing, Mi. with the return address of Andrew P. Kehoe. Since this box was labeled to Lainsburg it never reached Lansing as its termination location. Morse and Detective William Watkins headed to Laisnburg to pick up the box. With the words “High Explosives. Dangerous” on the side they handled this box if it was filled with fine crystals. It would be a slow 20 miles to MSP in Lansing as every bump in the road was watched. After reaching Lansing without incident Kehoe’s package would be left outside overnight until the next day.

By the early morning of May 19th, no more lost or surviving children would be found.

That following morning Lyle Morse and T. E. Trombla an inspector with the explosives unit of the Interstate Commerce Commission in Detroit (ICC would be replaced by the DOT in 1966) would begging to open Kehoe’s package. As daylight seeped into the box no bomb went off but only a note and ledger books were found inside.

Dear Sir,

I am leaving the school board and turning over to you all my accounts. They are all in this box, Due to an uncashed check, the bank had $ .22 more than my books showed when I took them over. Due to an error on the part of the Secretary in order No. 118, dated Nov. 18, 1925, the bank gained one more cent more over my books, making the bank account shows 23 cents w than my books. Otherwise, I am sure you will find my books exactly right.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew P. Kehoe

Nellie Kehoe’s remains wouldn’t be found until the next day by a highway patrolman taking a cigarette break near the hen house during the investigations. In the perfect destruction of the Kehoe Farm, the only building that was left was a henhouse where the burned remains of Nellie Kehoe would be found next to in a makeshift cart. She would be found by Michigan Highway Patrolman George Carpenter.

Many have speculated that Kehoe bludgeoned her to death due to the fractures in her skull but, this is more than likely from the heat of the fire turning her brain to gas causing her skull to crack from expansion. Due to the charring to her skull and bone, a clear-cut cause of death would not be determined. Surrounding Nellie’s body would be silverware that seemed to be laid out in a ceremonial fashion. This silverware would be placed on her head and her chest. Alongside her body was a metal box that investigators had opened. Inside they would find Earrings, an opal and diamond ring, a dozen teaspoons with the letter K on the handle, and a pin for Knights of the Maccabees. Also found in the box were their marriage license and bills from Nellie's hospital stay. One of the most interesting objects found inside this box was a large roll of what was described as either money or uncashed liberty bonds from WW I. Its unclear if Kehoe had known about these funds and if they would of even if their current value at the time could have cleared their debt.

Kehoe had also girdled the trees of his property along with cutting the grapevines he had planted and placing them back in a way as if nothing was wrong with them. He took special care to make sure nothing could be saved. Kit and Champion the two horses the Kehoes owned were burned to nothing but bones inside the barn as Kehoe had tied their legs together so they could not escape the flames.

LEO would find Kehoe’s last words stenciled on a piece of wood attached to a fence along the property reading, “Criminals are made, not born”

It is estimated that over 100k cars traveled through Bath to see the destruction. Postcards would be made and sold with a crudely drawn picture of Andrew Kehoe on them with a picture of the front half of his truck as the main focus. A creamery would see a macabre opportunity and sell ice cream to residents and the curious as well and it was a hit and more likely a morale booster for the residents of Bath. Traffic would get so bad by that Sunday it would be stretched out nine miles outside of Bath. MSP would finally have to turn the curious away as it was impossible for ARC workers to make it into Bath with a police escort.

Outside of Michigan, the Bath Twp Disaster would be swept away to the second page of newspapers due to Charles Lindbergh completing his trans-Atlantic solo flight on May 20, 1927.

In the summer of 1927 came so did the clean-up of the school. Almost exactly two months later an additional 200 pounds of dynamite would be found by clean-up workers.

But now with the school in ruins, the children of Bath no longer have a school to attend the next year. The city of Lansing School Board would offer education free of charge to the families of Bath, which they politely turned down. Bath would not only be a community but you could say became a family on May 18, 1927.

In the fall of 1927, the Children of Bath would return to school on Sept, 5, l but their classes would be held in various buildings throughout the community. Classes were held in a grocery store, drug store, firehouse, barbershop, barns, homes, garages, offices, and the community hall months before their classmates would be held for their families to claim.

Willis Cressman would recall in an interview about attending his classes in the town's grocery store.

"Getting to class was as simple. Enter the store, walk around the pickle barrels and rows of dry goods, and take a seat, begging learning. On a windy day in the middle of a lesson, the classroom door would slam shut. It made a loud bang like dynamite. I instinctively ran for the door, my legs pumping furiously. I don’t know how I got out of the building but somehow I did and I was safe outside. When I was catching my breath I turned around and the store was still intact. I later realized when that door made that noise everyone bolted out of there."

Also, this fall reconstruction would begin after the North wing was demolished and removed, Lansing Architect, Warren Holmes would donate the plans for the rebuild and be approved by the board on Sept 14, 1927. The following day, Senator James J. Couzens presented the people of Bath with a personal check of 75,000 dollars (1.3 million 2023) for the construction fund for the new school. August 18 the following year Bath Consolidated School would be now known as The James Couzens Agricultural School. The newly rebuilt school would be used until it was no longer suited for the needs of Bath Twp. in 1975

Until 1975 when you would enter the newly reconstructed school, a girl with a cat tucked under her arm would greet you. She represented all children, the face of the future, a rebirth of hope and resilience. This bronze statue was created in memory of the children that were lost and can still be seen today when you visit the Bath School museum in Bath Middle School across the street where the original Bath Consolidated School once stood. This statue was paid for by the school children of Bath by sending pennies to U of M where it was created by sculptor Carleton W. Angell.

The graduating class of 1927 would finally receive their diplomas and commencement ceremony with the class of 1977 50 years after they were to graduate. This same year the grounds where the school once stood would be dedicated as James J. Couzen Memorial Park.

Currently, there are plans to redevelop the park focusing on the victims of May 18, 1927, with a more permanent exhibition of the school's history and disaster. With the cupola reaching almost 100 years old the Bath Museum Committee is wanting to bring it indoors to preserve it for generations to come. The building’s exterior will also match the original school.

In memoriam, Sarah is going to read you each of the names of those lost because of this tragedy…

Nellie Kehoe – 52

Arnold V. Bauerle, age 8, 3rd grade Henry Bergan, age 14, 6th grade Herman Bergan, age 11, 4th grade Emilie M. Bromundt, age 11, 5th grade Robert F. Bromundt, age 12, 5th grade Floyd E. Burnett, age 12, 6th grade Russell J. Chapman, age 8, 4th grade F. Robert Cochran, age 8, 3rd grade Ralph A. Cushman, age 7, 3rd grade Earl E. Ewing, age 11, 6th grade Katherine O. Foote, age 10, 6th grade Marjorie Fritz, age 9, 4th grade Carlyle W. Geisenhaver, age 9, 4th grade George P. Hall, Jr., age 8, 3rd grade Willa M. Hall, age 11, 5th grade Iola I. Hart, age 12, 6th grade Percy E. Hart, age 11, 3rd grade Vivian O. Hart, age 8, 3rd grade Blanche E. Harte, age 30, teacher Gailand L. Harte, age 12, 6th grade LaVere R. Harte, age 9, 4th grade Stanley H. Harte, age 12, 6th grade Francis O. Hoeppner, age 13, 6th grade Cecial L. Hunter, age 13, 6th grade Doris E. Johns, age 8, 3rd grade Thelma I. MacDonald, age 8, 3rd grade Clarence W. McFarren, age 13, 6th grade J. Emerson Medcoff, age 8, 4th grade Emma A. Nickols, age 13, 6th grade Richard D. Richardson, age 12, 6th grade Elsie M. Robb, age 12, 6th grade Pauline M. Shirts, age 10, 5th grade Hazel I. Weatherby, age 21, teacher Elizabeth J. Witchell, age 10, 5th grade Lucile J. Witchell, age 9, 5th grade Harold L. Woodman, age 8, 3rd grade George O. Zimmerman, age 10, 3rd grade Lloyd Zimmerman, age 12, 5th grade

Killed by the truck bombing G. Cleo Clayton, age 8, 2nd grade Emory E. Huyck, age 33, superintendent Andrew P. Kehoe, age 55, perpetrator Nelson McFarren, age 74, retired farmer Glenn O. Smith, age 33, postmaster Died later of injuries

Beatrice P. Gibbs, age 10, 4th grade

Today, if you look closely through the grass in the park where the families of Bath gather in celebration and the sound of children laughing fills the air you can still see where the foundation where the school once stood like a healed scar.

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