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Two Black fallen soldiers receiving headstones in Evergreen Cemetery

The cemetery was found abandoned, and contained four hundred graves. Twenty one of them are soldiers.

BEAUMONT, Texas — On Saturday, May 27, two fallen Buffalo Soldiers will be honored with their own headstones.

For more than 20 years, a Beaumont woman has been working to preserve a piece of black history after she found a deteriorating cemetery that was abandoned in the 1960s.

Sandra Wilturner stumbled on Evergreen Cemetery near the First Full Gospel Church in Beaumont in 1999. That's when she began the process of getting the cemetery cleaned up.

"Trinity industrial center which is not too far from here. They were one of the first companies that decided to come here and start cutting down trees, clearing the place out." said Wilturner.

In 2000, Wilturner created the Evergreen Cemetery Foundation and enlisted the help of genealogist Peggy Dube. Together, they worked to find out who was buried there. The pair found 400 graves.

21 of the graves were soldiers, including Private Jerry LLoyd and Sergeant George Shaw.

"When we began to see who was actually buried back here, and we saw how the military guys never got their just due. George Shaw was one of them - he died in action in France. He was at the tail end of the Buffalo Soldier regiment," said Wilturner.

Dube discovered that in 1912, a family moved from Sabine Pass to Beaumont. The McGaffey family turned the First Full Gospel Church's backyard into a burial ground for Black people.

Wilturner says that during this time, there were restrictions on where Black people could be buried.

"They realized a lot of black people could not be buried in Magnolia and Forest lawn. So what they decided to do let's create our own. A place for us."

This Saturday, Private LLoyd and Sergeant Shaw will get their own headstones in the Evergreen Cemetery.

The ceremony will be held Saturday at First Full Gospel Church, located at 3290 Pine Street in Beaumont, it starts at 10 a.m.

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