Andrew Baum was doing yard work at his Arlington Heights home in the spring when he decided to move a big slab of marble the home's previous owners had used as a space for their garden hose.
After grabbing a crow bar to help flip over the 200-pound piece of rock, Baum realized what he had was actually a headstone.
"I went inside to grab my laptop and see who the guy was," Baum said.
It turns out the headstone is that of William Moorhouse, who died in 1864 at the age of 39. Moorhouse was buried in the Cady Cemetery in Inverness in a plot with a few other family members -- 8 miles away.
After he was unable to make contact with anyone at the cemetery over the phone, Baum stopped by the Palatine Historical Society and was eventually put in contact with Palatine Township Cemetery Chairman Terry Kelly, who, with the help of Andrew Wurtz, helped transfer the headstone back to the cemetery.
Baum says the home's past owners were avid gardeners and had various stones and rocks scattered through the backyard. After he found the headstone, he made sure there weren't any other surprises.
"I searched the yard, all the bushes and did a bit of digging, and I didn't find anything else," Baum said. "When you first find something like this, you think someone is buried in the yard."
Moorhouse's headstone now sits against a tree in the Cady Cemetery. It will be restored and remounted in the family plot by an Indiana-based restoration company, Stonehuggers, in the fall.
But how did the headstone, which belonged in the cemetery more than 8 miles away, make it to Baum's backyard?
Jeanne Pavlica with the Clarinda Cady Questers, a group that raises money to restore the cemetery, says it was popular for kids in the 1950s and 1960s to hold parties at Cady Cemetery.
A previous resident of the house or of a neighboring home could have helped steal the headstone and bring it to the house, Pavlica said.
In recent years, the Clarinda Cady Questers have replaced a rusted fence, making it tougher for trespassers to get into the cemetery, which was deeded to Palatine Township by the Cady family in 1856.
Graves in the small cemetery date from 1841, when Ezekiel and Adaline Cady, two of the earliest settlers in the area, buried their son Wilbert on a knoll behind their orchard.
Baum wasn't the first to find a missing headstone from the cemetery.
A Hanover Park woman, Amy Cannon, and her daughter returned a headstone to Cady Cemetery in 2003. That headstone belonged to a 10-year-old girl named Martha Jane Hunnewell who died in 1855.
Cannon's parents had discovered the headstone buried in their yard in Mount Prospect in 1993 but had difficulty finding where it came from and where it belonged. The headstone was "respectfully placed" in the yard until Cannon used the internet to crack the mystery.
Baum says he was quick to get on the internet to figure out where the headstone he found in his yard belonged. "It's bad mojo to have someone else's headstone in my backyard."