By Anna Giles

STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS13) — After a tombstone from the 1800s mysteriously turned up along a country road in Stanislaus County, one man made it his mission to find out where it came from and who it belongs to.

(credit: Mark Santos)

Marc Santos drives down the same road in rural Stanislaus County every day to get to work. But one-time last month he noticed something different: a 300-pound tombstone laying against a telephone pole.

He has no one has a clue how it got there.

“My first thought was it needs to get back to where it needs to be,” Santos said.

Santos said he had to stop. He couldn’t leave something more than 100 years old in such an unusual place. So, he and a friend loaded it into the back of his truck.

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Finding the tombstone was just the beginning. Getting answers led to even more questions, so Santos sought the help of dedicated historian, Holly Fielder. Fielder called it a miracle.

“The fact that it did not get destroyed or damaged or marked, tagged,” she said.

She checked local records in Waterford, which is not far from where the tombstone was found. In the end, a google search dredged up what she was looking for: identification.

“The person listed on the tombstone, the physician who had died in 1881, had actually got his medical degree in San Francisco at the university in 1879,” Fielder said.

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The tombstone was moved, possibly stolen, from a cemetery in Oakland, but the culprits and how they got to Stanislaus County remains a mystery.

“Their history, their life what they contributed to society could be totally lost by having that tombstone removed,” Fielder said.

Santos plans to return the tombstone to the cemetery himself. He said some poor choices in the past led to a desire to do right.

“To me now, a little bit older and a little bit wiser, a little more life experience, life amends is really big to me,” he said.

The name on the tombstone is L.J. Hughes. Everyone helping with this case has not been able to locate any extended family, but they are grateful to get the stolen stone back home in case any family comes forward.