Alma vase rescued

Thursday June 29, 2006
By Patrick Brennan, Times-Journal Staff

The Alma College Alumnae can thank the sharp eyes of Bonnie Stackpole for salvaging a valuable piece of its history. It was Stackpole who, in March, spotted an historic vase at a rummage sale at Knox Presbyterian Church.

"She didn't think it belonged in a rummage sale," said Mary Virginia Towers, chairwoman of the Alma College International Archives and Relic Committee.
The 82-year-old vase was presented Wednesday to the Elgin County Museum and will be on display when the museum opens in its new home some time in the fall on the fourth floor of the Elgin county administration building on Sunset Road.

After Stackpole rescued it, the Alma College Alumnae Association was contacted and completed negotiations to secure the vase. A donation to Knox from the alumnae made sure the vase was back in safe keeping.

The vase has an interesting history, much of it told on its elaborately inscribed exterior. According to the inscription, Alice Mason presented it to the Alma Daughters, which later became known as the Alma College Alumnae Association. The sterling silver vase was awarded to Emma Sisk, who spent 23 years at Alma College from 1881 to 1904. She was lady principal or dean from 1882 to 1903 and senior teacher of piano at Alma and organist at Central Methodist Church, located at Wellington and Moore Streets. She died in Toronto, July 21, 1921.

The vase features engraved scenes. They depict a small sailboat on a lake with mountains in the background, a small cottage, lighthouse, large home, two canoes in a lake, a closed gate with a pathway leading to a church, schoolhouse, windmill and a few airborne birds.

"To think, there isn't a dent on the vase," Towers said. "It's in better shape than we are." "Bless the efficient secretary of Knox Presbyterian Church for noticing this extremely important flower vase and rescuing it," she said.

While the alumnae are glad to have the vase back, Towers said there are still interesting unanswered questions. What more is known about Alice Mason who donated the vase? Towers said some clues might be that Mason was an Alma student, Alma graduate, a member of the Alma Daughters or a member of Central Methodist Church. A brief inscription, "H.S.C. #5608" on the base of the vase has Towers intrigued. She wonders if it could be the manufacturer’s name and item number.

Finally, she wonders where the vase has been since 1924 and how it ended up in a rummage sale.