Bearden is around 80 miles from Little Rock and is located in Ouachita County. The town was an important center for the timber industry and was a railroad town along the Cotton Belt Railway Line. Its city limits were created in 1882 by the Southwest Improvement Association, an agency of the Railway Land Office. The town was named after one of the lawyers for the agency, Judge John T. Bearden.

The town had a fortunate location between communities such as Camden and Fordyce, and quickly began to thrive. Several businesses began to flourish and due to their successes, the Cotton Belt Lumber Company picked Bearden as the site of one of the largest lumber mills in the region, the Cotton Belt Lumber Mill, in 1885. Lumber was the driving force of the economy. Four large lumber mills; the Cotton Belt mill, the Freeman-Smith Lumber Company, the Eagle Lumber Company, and the Stout Lumber Company, operated within six miles of the town from 1885 to 1930.

Cotton was also important to the region. Lumber dominated the economy through World War II. With the war over, millwork began to decline after the war and work for the defense industry increased until around the 1970's. Bearden remains a lumber town and has an annual Gazebo Festival, held the third weekend in June.