A Wayland Tradition - The Axe Hunt Scheduled for Saturday
Information compiled by Linda Lutes H`15.
Wayland Academy's Axe Hunt tradition dates to 1878, when the seniors surreptitiously secured the axe and passed it along to the juniors. It was an eight-foot “wooden affair” which the seniors said they had used to “cut down the great branches from the tree of knowledge and to dig up the roots of Greek verbs. It was painted white to denote the seniors’ purity of intention and red to denote the blood of various professors who had attempted to divert them from this high scholarly purpose.”
Principal Nathan E. Wood then established the axe to symbolize the “passing of knowledge and leadership from seniors to juniors.” However, this symbolic passing soon escalated into a strong competition between the senior and junior boys to see who could gain possession of the axe before commencement. The winning class would carve initials into the blade or handle to mark their possession. The axe was frequently stolen, hidden, or buried, and would disappear sometimes for several years. The original axe was recovered in the mid-1950’s, was locked in the school vault for many years, and then displayed on the wall of the president’s office for several years. During President Bill Ellis’ administration, a copy was made, and the traditional competition between seniors and juniors was revived. The original axe is now on display in the Wayland Archives and Museum in Swan Library, and two of the historical axes are displayed in the McKinstry Conference Room in Roundy Hall.