Communities & Towns
This is a list of Communities and Towns in Ouachita County - - - - - both THEN and NOW. Many of the communities and towns grew up during the railroad and timber booms with others in the southern part of the county developing during the oil boom.
Camden is the largest city and county seat. It was first and foremost a major river port town and in later years a major crossroads for the railroads. The city was incorporated on January 1, 1849 with S. C. Buchanan as mayor.
From Camden going north on scenic Highway 7 you would pass near the communities of Kent, Warner, Harmony Grove, Velie, and Smead. Following along the railroad from Camden to Bearden, you would pass near the communities of Kent, Warner, Shumaker, Eagle Mills, Salem and Millville. Modern day Highway 79 North passes by these communities or through them en route to Bearden as well. From Highway 79 North you can take Highway 4 East and pass near the small town known today as East Camden and the community of Lakeside.
From Camden going south along the railway you would pass through Cullendale, Tate, Elliott, Kirkland to Louann. Highway 7 South and Highway 376 both intertwine through these areas. In the very southeastern tip of the county you would find the communities of Cross Roads, Newport, Miller's Bluff, Snow Hill, Joyce City and Standard Umpstead. These communities are between Highway 7 and the Ouachita River and are bordered by Union County and the Smackover Oil Fields. East of Highway 7 is the community of Liberty and Pace City.
From the very southwestern corner of the county is Seminary and Stephens. Following the railway from Stephens back to Camden you pass through communities like Ogemaw, Buena Vista, Finswitch and Herbert. From Stephens up Highway 57 to Chidester, you pass through Troy and Good Hope. The railway line from Camden to the north west corner of the county passes through or near such communities as Lester, Bragg City, Chidester, Barham, and Sayre. Between this railway and the Ouachita River are the communities of Red Hill, Lunet and Tate's Bluff.
Stephens grew from old Richland in Columbia County when the Cotton Belt Railway, then known as the St. Louis, Arkansas & Texas Railway, was finished in 1822-83. The railway land company owned 160 acres on the site. It was called Stephens after or in honor of the chief engineer who surveyed and supervised the building of the railroad. The town was incorporated in 1888. It is some 20 miles southwest of the city of Camden.
Stephens bears the distinction of being the location of the first producing oil well to be drilled in Arkansas. It was in April of 1920 that the Hunter well on the Lester Haltom farm east of Stephens came in. The site of this well has been named to the National Register of Historic Places.
Prominent names from the Stephens area are Mr. M. L. Edwards, J. M. Smith, H. P. Morgan and W. A. Britt. In 1886 T. P. Lester, J. F. Haltom and W. L. Parker all began various businesses in the newly formed town which was incorporated in 1888.
Bearden was laid out by the Southwestern Improvement Association in 1882 and named in honor of Judge John T. Bearden, then attorney for the railway company. The city lies about 20 miles to the northeast of Camden on Highway 79. This town owes its growth and development to the huge timberlands which graced the area in the early days. Among those families long associated with Bearden are the Anthonys, Basses, Beards, Barners, Catheys, Gammills, Gatlings, Gossetts, Colverts, Harrells, Henrys, Johnsons, Launiuses, Hopkins, Martins, Riggs, Sorrells, Sloans and Williams.
Chidester, some 18 miles to the northwest of Camden on State Highway 24, is another incorporated town of the county. The town site was laid out by the Iron Mountain Railroad Company in 1880 from land owned by Mr. J. J. Smith. It was Mr. Smith's farm until the railroad was built through the country. This region served by the town of Chidester was populated by the Arnolds, Adams, Clingans, Gulleys, Eppersons, Graysons, Hollimans, McGills, Picketts, Purifoys, Smiths, Stinnetts, Rushings, and Usreys.
The construction of the Naval Ammunition Depot at Shumaker in what is now East Camden begun during World War II in 1945. This Depot was intended for the assembling and testing of rockets for use by the U. S. Navy and other branches of the armed service. The land needed originally was to encompass some 69,000 acres taken from Ouachita and Calhoun Counties requiring the resettlement of hundreds of families. It was also developed more fully during the Korean conflict in the early 1950's. Today private companies own the facilities.
State Business Directory of 1900 listed the following towns: Barham, Bearden, Buena Vista, Camden, Chidester, Eagle Mills, Elliott, Lester, Liberty, Lilley, Louann, Lufra, Lunet, Millville, Ogemaw, Stephens, Sayre, Tremont, and Van Duzer.
Post Offices listed in the county in 1903: Bearden, Eagle Mills, Kemp, Millville, Onalaska, Van Duzer, Buena Vista, Finns, Lufra, Ogemaw, Purifoy, Stephens, Barham, Chidester, Lester, Liberty, Lunet, Sayre, Wyloe, Elliott, Louann, Camden, Seminary and Troy.
Historical Communities Then and Now
Bests - near Bearden
Kemp - near Harmony Grove
Lilley - near Eagle Mills
Lufra- Camden SW
Onalaska - near Eagle Mills
Senter - Buena Vista
Van Waggoner, Wise & Wyloe - near Bragg City