Where History Lives
Thanks to caring citizens, much of Camden’s history has been preserved and many of the antebellum homes restored. Visitors don’t want to miss the Historic Downtown District, the restored Missouri Pacific Depot, the many Civil War landmarks, and the more than 20 historic houses listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of these homes (the Umstead House) is open as a bed-and-breakfast lodging while the McCollum-Chidester House serves as a museum with history dating back as far as 1847.
Camden actually began in 1824 as a steamboat landing where cotton was loaded and shipped to New Orleans. The Bluff, as it was known, was one of the leading cotton-shipping terminals and became the site of a cotton gin in 1841, launching Camden’s industrial history.
The McCollum-Chidester House was a place where stage drivers and travelers found rest, refreshment, and gracious hospitality in the days before the Civil War. The house is practically unchanged, as visitors can view original furnishings, mementos and bullet holes in the upstairs walls.
The town has seen a fair share of famous individuals passing through its history. Nineteenth century writer Edgar Allen Poe worked as a printer for the local newspaper, The Herald, in 1845. More recently, parts of John Jakes “The North and the South” made-for-television mini-series, were filmed at the McCollum-Chidester House. Kirstie Alley and Patrick Swayze were two favorites of the locals. Camdenites were extras in the scenes filmed here. Martin Scorcese directed his first movie, Box Car Bertha, featuring Barbara Hershey and David Carradine in Camden as well.
Camden, AR is the county seat and most populous city in Ouachita County.
Ouachita County was formed in November 1842, from part of Union County and named for the river running through it. In the Choctaw language, the words “owa” and “chita” mean “big hunt.” From that came Ouachita. It was the river that enticed a French trapper to establish a trading post that would become Camden, the county seat. Once heavy steamboat traffic linked Camden directly to New Orleans and other important cities. The county’s economy is about half-timber and half manufacturing with some tourism. Outdoor recreation abounds with hunting, fishing and water sports.