"There's no telling how it got here," said Mike Stacy, who found the marble monument during a weekend cleanup organized by the First Saturday Foundation.
The simple epitaph told of Bluford Garrett, who was born in 1852 and died in 1903 -- and presumably was "at rest."
A check of local records shows Mr. Garrett was one of many burials at Rollersville Cemetery, less than a mile from the canal ditch where the tombstone was found.
The cemetery, located in today's Harrisburg neighborhood off Calhoun Expressway, was established in 1827. By 1867 it had become a major community cemetery.
Civil War soldiers and slaves were buried there, but the exact number is unknown; no records were kept. In 1883, the Rollersville community was absorbed by the city of Augusta and a caretaker began recording its burials. When the cemetery closed in 1910, there were 3,598 graves.
Although some of the graves were later moved to Magnolia Cemetery, most were forgotten, lost to vandalism and neglect. By the time the city tried to preserve the area in 1982, almost all stones were gone -- and a single marker was erected to preserve the memory of thousands laid to rest there.
Mr. Garrett's tombstone might provide a clue to the fate of many others, Mr. Stacy said.
"Maybe they needed riprap during one of the floods," he said. "Or maybe they just dumped them here in this ditch."
Mr. Stacy would like to move the marker back to Rollersville, but it is very heavy and in an area inaccessible to all but foot traffic.
"But if we had to, we could find a way to pull it out," he said.
Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or firstname.lastname@example.org.