The passing of nearly nine decades hasn’t diminished a 104-year-old man’s view of Andrew Kehoe, the evil mastermind of the May 18, 1927, Bath School Disaster, a bombing that took the lives of 38 children as they attended class.
George Baird, 104, now lives in an assisted living facility in Bath Township. He is one of the last remaining students who attended the Bath Consolidated School at the time of the bombing.
The Bath bombing remains the deadliest school murder spree in U.S. history, still eclipsing mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook.
In all, 45 people died, including Kehoe, his wife and five other adults, in the May 18 blast at the school, fire at Kehoe's farm and a second blast when Kehoe drove his truck to the school after the first explosion. Kehoe’s final act was to blow up his truck, killing himself along with the school superintendent, Emory Huyck, who was hailed as a hero for his calm in rescuing victims in the aftermath of the first bombing.
George Baird, who is frail and quiet these days, sat in a chair in his room at Timber Ridge Senior Assisted Living Facility and spoke about the dynamite planted under first floor of a school filled with young, innocent children just before summer break nearly nine decades ago.
Kehoe, 55, was a disgruntled school treasurer with personal money woes. Upset about taxes levied to pay for the Bath Consolidated School, which opened in 1922, he carefully planned a catastrophe designed to wipe out all of the children in the community.
About 250 attended school there. In that regard, he failed, as many children survived the mayhem and the community rallied to rebuild the school.
Though a disaster of unimaginable proportions in the farming community north of East Lansing, it could have been worse. A clock triggered the explosion at 8:45 a.m. but it ignited only part of the dynamite that leveled the north wing.
The horrific details included Kehoe tying the hooves of his horses together to die in a fire he set in his barn. He murdered his wife, Nellie. Her charred remains were found later lashed to a cart inside a burned shed on the Kehoe farm.
He then drove to the school to explode his truck for more destruction, shortly after 9 a.m. that day.
George Baird, then a 15-year-old sophomore, was not in class when the bomb went off. He was excused from final exams because his grades were good, his son, Stan, 80, of DeWitt Township, explained.
“I was out in the field,” George Baird recalled. “I heard the explosion.”