A container with apparent human cremains was left outside the front gates of the Oakland Cemetery in St. Paul on Tuesday.

Police don’t know who abandoned the container that holds the remains of James Harris, said St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders. A sticker on the container identified Harris as the decedent and noted that he died in January 2010, Linders said.

Robert Schoenrock, the cemetery’s grounds supervisor, said a grounds worker discovered the rectangular black box about 4:30 p.m. while preparing to close the front gates for the day.

“Very strange,” Schoenrock said. “Stuff like that doesn’t happen.”

The book-size box was sitting upright on the ground just behind a granite sign inside the cemetery. The box’s lid was slightly ajar, Schoenrock said, but the plastic bag containing the cremains appeared undisturbed.

The box was placed in the cemetery’s safe for the night. Schoenrock called a cremation service listed on a sticker on the box early Wednesday and was referred to a funeral home in Illinois. Schoenrock said he left a message at the funeral home Wednesday morning.

Police were called to the cemetery in the 900 block of Jackson Street about 1 p.m. Wednesday and took custody of the container.

“I hope a family member can come forward and find the ashes … so they could be brought back to where they rightfully belong,” Schoenrock said. “You just hate to have somebody — if they were lost or stolen — have somebody looking for them and not get them returned.”

Anyone with information can contact police at 651-291-1111.