Marion Davis Williams and his brother, Jasper, emigrated from Lebanon County, Tennessee to Dallas County, Texas in 1876. They traveled by Conestoga wagon and settled near the communities of Embree and Duck Creek. Two years would pass before M. D.’s family joined the brothers. Their parents were Marlin G. and Sarah Ann (Holt) Williams. M. D. was born April 1, 1861, and Jasper was born September 10, 1857.
In 1885, M. D. and Jasper founded a general store at Duck Creek. They offered a variety of necessities for the farming community including groceries, dry goods, John Deere horse drawn farm equipment, John Deere buggies, furniture and funeral merchandise, including coffins. Their father also worked at the store. He had been a furniture and coffin maker in Tennessee. In 1889 their store was among those hit by the disastrous fire, which destroyed much of the downtown area. The determined brothers soon rebuilt and their business continued to prosper. Rivalries between the communities intensified until December of 1887, when the post office was renamed Garland and moved to a point midway between Duck Creek and Embree. The town of Garland was formed in 1891 and M. D. was elected as mayor. This was a post that he would hold on several occasions during his lifetime. M. D. had educated himself in the procedure of embalming and over the course of time was called upon more frequently as a funeral provider than a retailer. The dry goods portion of the business was sold to A. M. Baker in the early 1900s. Baker Furniture and Accessories still occupy that same location.
In July of 1917 the horse drawn funeral coach traveled all the way from downtown Garland to the Elm Grove community and to home of George W. Forster. His coffin was loaded into the coach with long windows on each side and then the family and friends lined their wagons up behind the coach and followed to the little church house at Cottonwood. His grandson, Carl Forster, said he would never forget all the bright silver buckles on the harnesses.
M. D.’s son, D. Cecil Williams, purchased the business from his father in 1931 and constructed a new facility just two blocks away at 716 Main Street. This facility has been expanded through the years, but the original brick structure is still in use. Cecil’s sister, Dorothy Ruth, worked in the business from time to time and became one of the first licensed female embalmers in the state.
Under Cecil’s guidance, the business began to diversify. Williams’ Ambulance Service was formed and served as the area’s only ambulance service for many years. This service continued until 1975. Cecil formed Williams Life Insurance Company in 1947, and this business still continues to operate.
Cecil’s son, Marion D. Williams III, purchased the business from his father in 1970, incorporated and adopted the business name Williams Funeral Directors. Marion remodeled the existing structure, which doubled the size of the smaller facility. Under his stewardship, the company has continued to grow. Related business lines have been added which include a cemetery services company and a monument company.
Note: M. D. died in 1938. Both M. D. and wife, Marillulis, were buried at Knights of Pythias Cemetery in Garland.
Photo and information courtesy their family funeral home and Garland Landmark Society.