History of School Shootings in the United States: 1776-1959
The rarely discussed fully “historical” history of school shootings, that is, going back further than 1999, is an interesting collection of stories from which patterns emerge. This pattern does not support the narrative in mainstream media that school shootings with semi automatic rifles have become epidemic; on the contrary, but several other interesting trends do emerge. And so to begin we return to an America that wasn’t America but the Americas…
The earliest shooting known to happen on school property in the Americas was Pontiac's Rebellion, on July 26, 1764. Without getting into the complex history between settlers and natives, four Lenape American Indians entered the schoolhouse near what is now Greencastle, Pennsylvania. They shot and killed schoolmaster Enoch Brown, and killed nine or ten children (the reports vary). Two children survived.
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Most school attacks during this historical period involved stabbing with knives or hitting with stones, but there were some shootings.
On November 12, 1840, John Anthony Gardner Davis, who was a Professor of Law at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, was shot by a student, one Joseph Semmes. Davis died three days later.
Young Semmes, who some years since shot Professor Davis at the Virginia University, brought his life to an end by his own hand, the morning of the 9th instant [9 July 1847], at the house of his brother in Washington, Georgia. He shot himself with a pistol, the ball entering the left eye and penetrating the brain and lingered in a state of total insensibility from about 7 o'clock, A. M., when his family was called to his room by the report of a pistol, until half past 1. P. M. of the same day. — Edgefield Advertiser (SC), 11 August 1847
On November 2, 1853 in Louisville, Kentucky a student named Matthew Ward bought a self-cocking pistol first thing in the morning on his way to school and then shot the Schoolmaster, a Mr. Butler, for punishing his brother excessively on the previous day. He was acquitted even though he shot the Schoolmaster at point blank range in front of a room full of witnesses- his classmates.
On April 30, 1866 an editorial ran in the New York Times that read in part
"...pistols being dropped on the floor at balls or being exploded in very inconvenient ways. A boy of 12 has his pantaloons made with a pistol pocket; and this at a boarding-school filled with boys, who, we suppose, do or wish to do the same thing. We would advise parents to look into it, and learn whether shooting is to be a part of the scholastic course which may be practiced on their boys; or else we advise them to see that their own boys are properly armed with the most approved and deadly-pistol, and that there may be an equal chance at least of their shooting as of being shot."
On June 8, 1867 in New York City, a 13 year old boy brought a loaded pistol to Public School No. 18 and shot and injured a classmate.
On December 22, 1868 in Chattanooga, Tennessee a boy who refused to be whipped left school, and the next day returned with his brother and a friend for revenger. The teacher wasn’t at the school, so they did the only sensible thing and continued to his house, where a terrible gun fight unfolded, leaving everyone but one brother dead.
On March 9, 1873 in Salisbury, Maryland a schoolteacher named Miss Shockley was walking after school with four small children. She was approached by a Mr. Hall who shot her. She died instantly. Hall threw himself under a train later that night.
On May 24, 1879 in Lancaster, New York a carriage full of female students was pulling out of the local school's stables as Frank Shugart, a telegraph operator, shot and severely injured Mr. Carr, who was Superintendent of the stables.
March 6, 1884 in Boston, Massachusetts, as gang activity spreads among the young, an article from the New York Times reads:
"Another "Jesse James" Gang - "Word was brought to the Fifth Police Station to-night that a number of boys were using the Concord-street School-house for some unknown purpose, and a posse of officers was sent to investigate. The gang scattered at the approach of the police, and in their flight on drew a revolver and fired at Officer Rowan, without effect, however. William Nangle, age 14, and Sidney Duncan, age 12, were captured, but the other five or six escaped, among them the one who who did the shooting. The boys refused to disclose the object of their meeting, but it is thought that another "Jesse James" organization has been broken up."
On March 15, 1884 in Gainesville, Georgia during the middle of the day, a group of very drunk farmers from Jackson County left the Jug Tavern while drinking and shooting their revolvers as they walked down the street. As they approached the female academy, the girls fled the schoolyard into the school where the gang followed them, swearing and shooting and firing several rounds into the front door. Amazingly, no one was killed or injured in the incident.
On July 4, 1886 in Charleston, South Carolina during Sunday school, Emma Connelly shot and killed John Steedley for "circulating slanderous reports" about her, even though her brother publicly whipped him a few days earlier for the same incident.
On April 12, 1887 in Watertown, New York a student a the Potsdam Normal School named Edwin Bush committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
On June 12, 1887 in Cleveland, Tennessee a man named Will Guess went to the local school and shot and killed Miss Irene Fann, his little sister's teacher, for whipping her the day before.
On June 13, 1889 in New Brunswick, New Jersey a man named Charles Crawford got upset about an argument with a school Trustee, then went up to the window and fired a pistol into a crowded school room. The bullet lodged in the wall just above the teacher's head.
The first known mass shooting in the United States where students were shot happened on April 9, 1891, when 70 year old James Foster fired a shotgun at a group of students in the playground of St. Mary's Parochial School, Newburgh, New York, causing minor injuries to several students.
There are very few reports of mass or multiple school shootings during the first three decades of the 20th Century, and the three most violent attacks on schools during this time involved either arson or explosions.
On February 26, 1902 in Camargo, Illinois a teacher named Fletcher R. Barnett shot and killed another teacher named Eva C. Wiseman in front of her class. After shooting at a pupil who came to help Miss Wiseman and then wounding himself in a failed suicide attempt he waited in the classroom until a group of farmers came to lynch him, then ran out of the school, grabbed a shotgun from one of the farmers and shot himself again, before running away and jumping into a well where he presumably drowned. The incident is said to have been sparked by the teachers refusal to marry him.
On February 24, 1903 in Inman, South Carolina a 17-year-old student at Inman High school named Edward Foster was shot and fatally wounded by his teacher Reuben Pitts after he had jerked a rod from Pitts' hands to resist punishment. According to the teacher, Foster struck the pistol Pitts had drawn to defend himself, causing it to fire. Pitts was acquitted of murder in the killing.
On October 10, 1906 in Cleveland, Ohio a man named Harry Smith shot and killed 22-year-old teacher Mary Shepard at South Euclid School after she rejected him. Smith escaped and committed suicide in a barn near his home two hours later.
On March 23, 1907 in Carmi, Illinois a man named George Nicholson shot and killed a man named John Kurd at the schoolhouse during a rehearsal. His motive was Kurd making a disparaging remark about Nicholson's daughter during her recital. What a great dad.
On March 11, 1908 in Boston, Massachusetts Elizabeth Bailey Hardee was shot to death by Sarah Chamberlain Weed at the Laurens School, a finishing school they opened together in Boston. Hardee taught mathematics at Wellesley College in 1899 and 1900, where she and Weed had been students together, and reportedly “intimate friends”. Hardee received her diploma in 1894, and Weed in 1895.
After killing Elizabeth Hardee, Sarah Weed turned the gun on herself and committed suicide. Sarah Weed reportedly suffered a breakdown “due to overwork,” and had been confined to sanitariums until she arrived at the Laurens School, where she spent the night with Hardee.
It is believed the thought of returning to the sanitarium excited and angered Weed and induced the shooting. Hardee was shot through the base of the brain, while there was a bullet wound in Weed's right temple. A revolver with two chambers empty was lying on Weed's breast.
On April 15, 1908 in Asheville, North Carolina one Dr. C. O. Swinney shot and fatally wounded his 16-year-old daughter Nellie in a reception room at the Normal and Collegiate Institute. He committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.
On February 12, 1909 in San Francisco, California a girl named Dorothy Malakanoff was shot and killed as she arrived at school in San Francisco by Demetri Tereaschinko who then shot himself in a failed suicide attempt. 49 year old Demetri Tereaschinko was reportedly upset that 10 year old Dorothy refused to elope.
On January 10, 1912 in Warrenville, Illinois a man named Sylvester E. Adams shot and killed a teacher named Edith Smith after she rejected his advances. Adams then shot and killed himself. The students had been dismissed for the day.
On March 27, 1919 in Lodi Township, Michigan a 19-year-old teacher named Irma Casler was shot and killed in her classroom at Rentschler school in Lodi Township, Michigan by Robert Warner, apparently because she rejected his advances.
On April 2, 1921 in Syracuse, New York Professor Holmes Beckwith shot and killed dean J. Herman Wharton in his office at Syracuse University before committing suicide.
On May 18, 1927 in Bath, Michigan the school treasurer Andrew Kehoe killed his wife and destroyed his house and farm, and then blew up the Bath Consolidated School by detonating dynamite in the basement of the school, killing 38 people, mostly children. He then pulled up to the school in his Ford and blew the car up, killing himself and four others. Only one shot was fired in order to detonate dynamite in the car. This was deadliest act of mass murder at a school in the United States at the time.
On February 15, 1933 in Downey, California a Dr. Vernon Blythe shot and killed his wife Eleanor, and his 8-year old son Robert at Gallatin grammar school and then committed suicide after firing three more shots at his other son Vernon. His wife, who had been a teacher at the school, filed for divorce the week before.
On September 14, 1934 in Gill, Massachusetts the Headmaster Elliott Speer was murdered by a shotgun blast through the window of his study at Northfield Mount Hermon School. The crime was never solved.
On December 12, 1935 in New York City, New York, Victor Koussow, a Russian laboratory worker at the School of Dental and Oral Surgery, shot three doctors at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, before committing suicide.
On April 27, 1936 in Lincoln, Nebraska, a Prof. John Weller shot and wounded Prof. Harry Kurz in a corridor of the University of Nebraska, apparently because he was about to be dismissed from his position at the end of the semester. Kurz Weller tried to escape, but was surrounded by police on the campus, and he killed himself with a shot in the chest.
On June 4, 1936 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a Wesley Crow shot and killed his Lehigh University English instructor, C. Wesley Phy. Crow went to Phy's office and demanded that Mr. Phy change his grade so he would pass and Crow, presumably, refused. Crow committed suicide after shooting Phy.
On September 24, 1937 in Toledo, Ohio a 12-year-old named Robert Snyder shot and wounded his principal, June Mapes, in her office at Arlington public school when she refused his request to call a classmate. He then fled the school grounds and shot and wounded himself.
On May 6, 1940 in South Pasadena, California after being removed as principal of South Pasadena Junior High School, Verlin Spencer shot six school officials, killing five, before attempting to commit suicide by shooting himself in the stomach.
On May 23, 1940 in New York City Matthew Gillespie, a 62-year-old janitor at the junior school of the Dwight School for Girls, shot and critically wounded Mrs. Marshall Coxe, secretary of the junior school.
On July 4, 1940 in Valhalla, New York after his 15 year old daughter Melba refused to leave her boarding school and return home, her father Joseph Moshell, 47, came to school and shot and killed her.
On September 12, 1940 in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a 29-year-old teacher named Carolyn Dellamea was shot to death inside her third grade classroom by 35-year-old William Kuhns. Kuhns then shot himself in the chest in a failed suicide attempt. Kuhns had reportedly been courting Dellamea for over a year but the relationship was ended when Dellamea discovered that Kuhns was already married.
On October 2, 1942 in New York City a 36-year-old mathematics teacher at William J. Gaynor Junior High School named Erwin Goodman was shot and killed in the school corridor by a youth
On February 23, 1943 in Port Chester, NY a 13 year old named Harry Wyman shot himself at the Harvey School.
On June 26, 1946 in Brooklyn a 15-year-old schoolboy who balked at turning over his pocket money to a gang was shot in the chest in the basement of the Public School 147 annex of the Brooklyn High School for Automotive Trades.
On November 24, 1946 in New York City a 13-year-old student at St. Benedict's Parochial School shot and fatally wounded himself while sitting in an audience watching a school play.
On December 24, 1948 in New York City a 14-year-old boy was killed by an accidental shot on the school shooting range from the .22-caliber rifle of a fellow-student… he was shot in the head when he chanced into range where Robert Ross, 17, was shooting at a target near a lake on the school property.
On March 11, 1949 in New York City a 16-year-old student at Stuyvesant High School was accidentally shot in the arm by a fellow student who was showing off with a pistol in class.
On November 13, 1949 in Columbus, Ohio, an Ohio State University freshman named James Heer took a .45 caliber handgun from the room of a Delta Tau Delta fraternity brother and shot and killed another fraternity brother named Jack McKeown, 21, who was an Ohio State senior.
On July 22, 1950 in New York City a 16-year-old boy was shot in the wrist and abdomen at the Public School 141 dance during an argument with a former classmate.
On November 27, 1951 in New York City a 15 year old student named David Brooks was shot and killed as fellow students watched.
On April 9, 1952 in New York City a 15-year-old boarding-school student shot a dean rather than relinquish pin-up pictures of girls in bathing suits. Good man.
On July 14, 1952 in New York City one Bayard Peakes walked in to the offices of the American Physical Society at Columbia University and shot and killed secretary Eileen Fahey with a .22 caliber pistol. Peakes was upset that the American Physical Society had rejected a pamphlet he had written.
On September 3, 1952 in Lawrenceville, Illinois a 25-year-old named Georgine Lyon ended her engagement with Charles Petrach, to which Petrach responded by shooting and killing Lyon in a classroom at Lawrenceville High School where she worked as a librarian. She was reportedly found in a pool of blood.
On November 20, 1952 in New York City Rear Admiral E. E. Herrmann, 56 years old, superintendent of the Naval Post-Graduate School, was found dead in his office with a bullet in his head. A service revolver was found by his side.
On October 2, 1953 in Chicago, Illinois a 14-year-old named Patrick Colletta was shot to death by 14-year-old named Bernice Turner in a classroom of Kelly High School. It was reported that after Turner refused to date Colletta he handed her the gun and dared her to pull the trigger, telling her that the gun was "only a toy." A coroner's jury later ruled that the shooting was an accident.
On October 8, 1953 in New York City a 17 year old student at the Machine and Metal Trades High School named Larry Licitra was shot and slightly wounded in the right shoulder in the lobby of the school while inspecting a handmade pistol owned by one of the other students.
On May 15, 1954 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, a man named Putnam Davis Jr. was shot and killed during a fraternity house carnival at the Phi Delta Theta house at the University of North Carolina. William Joyner and Allen Long were shot and wounded during the same exchange of gunfire in their fraternity bedroom. The incident took place after an all-night party. Mr. Long reported to the police that, while the three were drinking beer at 7 a.m., Davis pulled out a gun he had obtained from the car of a former roommate and started shooting.
On January 11, 1955 in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania after some of his dorm mates urinated on his mattress Bob Bechtel, a 20-year-old student at Swarthmore College, returned to the dorm with a shotgun and used it to shoot and kill fellow student Holmes Strozier.
On April 17, 1956 in New York City 18-year-old Henry Smith, who was a student at a Bronx vocational high school, was stabbed to death by 16-year-old Randolph Lawrence, a fellow student. The stabbing was reportedly sparked over a dispute about a basketball game.
On May 4, 1956 in Prince George's County, Maryland, a 15-year-old student named Billy Prevatte fatally shot a teacher and injured two others at Maryland Park Junior High School in Prince George's County after he had been reprimanded.
On October 20, 1956 in New York City a junior high school student was wounded in the forearm by another student armed with a home-made weapon at Booker T. Washington Junior High School.
On October 2, 1957 in New York City A 16-year old student was shot in the leg yesterday by a 15-year old classmate at a city high school.
On March 4, 1958 in New York City a 17-year-old student shot a boy in the Manual Training High School.
On May 1, 1958 in Massapequa, New York a 15-year-old high school freshman was shot and killed by a classmate in a washroom of the Massapequa High School.
and on September 24, 1959 in New York City twenty-seven men and boys and an arsenal were seized in the Bronx as the police headed off a gang war resulting from the fatal shooting of a teenager the prior Monday at Morris High School.
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