Today's Garland combines many smaller rural communities and townships, the earliest of which was Duck Creek, a community of pioneer arrivals in the 1840s and 1850s. Its original business district was on the west side of the creek from which it took its name, near the present Avenue B crossing.
Rail lines, which came around 1886, ran north and east of Duck Creek. The GC&SF railway even developed the competing town of Embree, whose commercial establishments grew up around the depot, then located near the present Avenue C crossing of that line.
Old Duck Creek, which had lost its post office to Embree, suffered a destructive fire in 1887, after which some of its business and professional people relocated to Embree. But others laid out the town of New Duck Creek, located north of the present square.
Following a year of fierce competition and some enmity, the post office relocated midway between the two townships, which then joined under a new name -- Garland -- after Augustus H. Garland, Attorney General in the administration of President Grover Cleveland. The city incorporated in 1891 with a population of about 500 people.
The man whose name the city adopted was a former Arkansas governor and senator who had won great respect and popularity in the South through his efforts to resist secession before the Civil War, and then through his service to his state and the South during and after the war. As Attorney General, he became the first Southerner to hold cabinet rank since the Civil War.
His long effort to regain the right to practice law went all the way to the Supreme Court, which in an important 1867 decision ruled, in effect, that service to the Confederacy did not prohibit one from practicing law in the restored Union. He died in 1899 while arguing a case before the Supreme Court without ever having seen the town that took his name.
Their differences settled, Garlandites consolidated their efforts toward building a solid agricultural community. Local farmers primarily raised cotton, various grains, onions and livestock, and Garland's business center served rural customers from miles around. City officials built a home-owned electrical power plant when they installed water and sewer lines in 1923.
Agricultural dominance began to erode in the late 1930s, when outside industry first became attracted by Garland's resources. The advent of World War II and its all-out effort to supply military needs brought more industry to the city, giving it its biggest economic and population boost, which continued after the war's end; the 1950 U.S. Census counted the city's population at 10,291.
Garland spent the next 50 years developing its available land area around a diversified industrial base. As agricultural activity declined, a multitude of new businesses and industries arose. Rural communities, such as Centerville, Pleasant Valley and Rose Hill, were absorbed in the process.
But even as it grew, the city retained the character of a family town of cultural, religious, social and educational opportunities.