Keltia Davis Shugart grew up in Michigan, living in Randolph and Oass counties. He wanted to be a doctor and began his studies with Dr. Bonine of Xiles, Michigan. Bonine later went on to become a noted army surgeon and Shugart finished his medical studies at Keokuk (Iowa) Medical College.
He practiced near Belle Plaine, Iowa from 1853 to 1860, then moving to the town in and opening a drugstore, which he operated until he left for California in 1870. While in Belle Plaine, he made two trips to the mines at Gold Hill, Colorado, with his wife Martha. The change in climate was so beneficial, the couple decided to move. The couple had two children, Lillian and Leila.
Dr. Shugart responded to John Wesley North’s solicitation of colonists for a new community in California. Though not with the original expedition, he arrived shortly after and agreed with Dr. James. P. Greves and Ebeneezer G. Brown, also of Belle Plaine, that the 8,600 acres of California Silk Center Association land the group was consideration was a good purchase for the Colony. When the Southern California Colony Association was incorporated on September 20, 1870, North was named president, Greves was named secretary, and Shugart was named treasurer.
He returned to Iowa and disposed of his interests there and arrived with his family at San Bernardino on December 7, 1870. The family was accompanied by a young Civil War captain, Lyman C. Waite. Shugart contributed substantially to the building of the Colony and, despite his decision to retire from medical practice, the needs of the community caused him to take up his medical practice again.
He bought the second lot in the Colony after North, and his property was bounded by 9th and 10th streets and Mulberry and Lime streets. The first orange trees were planted on his land on March 1, 1871, brought back from Los Angeles by Lyman C. Waite for himself, Shugart, and North.
That year, both tragedy and happiness came to the Shugarts in quick succession. On February 28, 1872 14-year-old Leila died. There was no cemetery, so she was buried in the family’s yard. On April 5, 1872, Riverside celebrated its first wedding when 16-year-old Lillian Shugart married Waite.
Evergreen Cemetery was instituted in 1872. The Southern California Colony Association had reserved the land although the cemetery was not begun until a nonprofit association was formed to administer it. The first board of directors included, Rev. I. W. Atherton, the first Congregational pastor in Riverside, Dr. K. D. Shugart, G. D. Carleton, D. C. Twogood and Prior S. Russell. As soon as the cemetery was operational, Shugart moved his daughter Leila for burial there. In 1875, Shugart traded his land for the 40 acres where the Sherman Institute now stands, plus $4000 and the water right. He partially improved this place, but finally sold it and purchased ten acres from Lyman C. Waite at the head of Mulberry Street and here he erected a comfortable home, which remained his residence until his death.
Shugart was always interested in educational matters and was a member of the second board of school trustees in the colony. He was the first to urge the organization of the Universalist Church in Riverside and attended the new church led by George H. Deere. He is memorialized as a founder in one of the church’s windows.
The doctor was a conspicuous figure in Riverside, was always well groomed, wore a silk hat, and was always the genteel and refined gentleman wherever he was seen. His death was a severe loss to the city he had seen grow from barren wastes to a world-renowned city. He could truly say, “All of which I saw and part of which I was.”