The massive iron ring languished for generations at the bottom of the Augusta Canal, but now it seems everyone has an interest in it.
“It’s a giant, heavy, interesting-looking thing,” Canal Authority director Dayton Sherrouse said. “It almost looks like a tire off its rim.”
The object, believed to be a pump housing, was discovered by local historian George Barrett last winter, when the canal’s third level had been drained to accommodate a storm drain project.
“It was obviously something used in or on the canal,” Sherrouse said. “We pulled it out and planned to move it to our warehouse.”
The artifact was too heavy to move, so it was parked temporarily by a curb at nearby John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, where it caught the attention of Georgia Iron Works, which was once located nearby and likely manufactured the multi-ton object.
Reab Berry, the company’s business development director, contacted Richmond County Board of Education attorney Leonard Fletcher Jr. last month to ask whether the board would donate it for a historical display at the company’s Grovetown headquarters.
Before taking a vote, however, trustee Barbara Pulliam expressed concerns about moving a historic item out of Augusta and called Sherrouse, who told her it was the property of the Canal Authority.
“I told them it’s not theirs to donate,” Sherrouse said, adding that officials are trying to find a piece of equipment large enough to move the object to the authority’s warehouse.
The school board later voted to give the rightful owner, whoever is it, 30 days to remove the object from school property.
Berry said Georgia Iron Works has access to equipment capable of moving the artifact and would welcome a chance to display it.
“I suspect, if someone else tries to lift the thing, they’ll be happy for us to end up with it,” he said.