Around 1850, immigrants began arriving to the area of modern-day Garland and two communities formed by 1874: Embree and Duck Creek. The two communities grew a rivalry around the Santa Fe Railroad depot and fought over which town would get the local post office for several years. In 1887, Congressman Joe Abbott submitted a bill to Congress to move the post office to a place between the two towns. The new location was named Garland after President Grover Cleveland’s Attorney General, Augustus H. Garland. Soon after, the Embree and Duck Creek communities joined with Garland to form the city of Garland.
By 1890, Garland had four churches, three gristmills, three cotton gins, a flour mill, and several hotels and businesses. Garland was incorporated on April 21, 1891, and had a population of 819 people by 1904.
In 1920, a local businessman financed a new electrical generator plant, which led to the formation of Garland Power and Light. Garland Power and Light still powers the city today. The first car dealership was built in the 1920s. Unfortunately, a tornado in 1927 destroyed much of the city and killed seventeen people, including the former mayor S.E. Nicholson.
In the late 1930s, the Craddock food company and the Byer-Rolnick hat factory moved into Garland. The first radio tower, the KRLD (Dallas) radio tower, was constructed and is still operational to this day. Kraft Foods bought a motor plant to rebuild for its manufacture. In the 1940s, Garland was a major onion-shipping point.
Garland’s government changed to a city-manager government in 1951, with L.E. Stark becoming the first city manager. Between 1954 and 1957, Garland grew from 6,832 acres to 8,000 acres. By the late 1960s, the city had 80 churches, 28 schools, 15 parks, four banks, and two hospitals.
Garland has one of the lowest poverty rates of U.S. cities. In 1990, Garland’s population was at 180,650 and had 2,227 businesses, making it the second-largest city in Dallas County and the tenth-largest city in Texas.
The 2000s brought several developments for Garland, including the Hawaiian Falls waterpark in 2003, the Garland Independent School District’s Curtis Culwell Center (an arena and conference facility) in 2005, and the Firewheel Town Center in 2005, an outdoor mall with over 100 businesses and an AMC theater. In 2009, the 5th Street Crossing was developed, a mixed-use, transit-oriented project with 189 apartment units, 11,000 square feet of retail, and six live-work units.
On December 26, 2015, the southeast part of Garland was struck by an EF4 tornado causing at least eight fatalities.