Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Turbulent History of Camden’s Courthouse

Created from Union County in 1842, Ouachita County consists of land originally belonging to Hempstead County. It takes its name from the Ouachita River which bisects the county from the north to southeast and eventually forms its southeastern boundary. On a bluff of the river, the French established the trading post Ecore Fabre, later known as Camden which later became the county seat.

Due to its strategic position, Camden served as a hub for supplies and shipping and also figured in the Red River campaign of the Civil War. Union general Frederic Steele occupied the town during this campaign. Considered one of the “burned counties” in Arkansas, Ouachita County lost early records due to the destruction of its first two courthouses by fire.

The courthouse completed between 1888 and 1890 is shown in the above photograph (from SARA’s collection). This particular courthouse suffered destruction when a tornado struck Camden in 1931. Though the records had suffered water damage during the tornado, they were fortunately not a total loss.

Construction crews built a new courthouse in 1933 around the vaults of the 1890 structure. It continues to serve as the courthouse today.

SARA’s collections contain Ouachita County history through surviving records on microfilm, photographs, and other materials. SARA continues to accept donations of original materials pertaining to Ouachita County. For more information, please contact Archival Manager, Melissa Nesbitt, by email at, by phone at 870-983-2633, or stop by 201 Highway 195, Washington, Arkansas.