Garland was born on June 11, 1832, in Covington, Tennessee, United States. He was the son of Rufus and Barbara Hill Garland. Along with his parents, his older brother, Rufus, and older sister, Elizabeth, the family moved to Lost Prairie in Arkansas in 1833 where his father owned a store. His father died when Garland was still a baby and his mother then remarried Thomas Hubbard in 1836. Hubbard relocated the family to Washington, Arkansas, near the Hempstead County seat of Hope.