Originally, Virden was a mining camp known as Richmond. Silver ore was mined nearby in Ralston and shipped to Richmond for processing in the stamp mill. Then the silver played out, the mine closed and a rancher named Virden bought the townsite. He sold the property to a group of Mormons who migrated north from Chihuahua during the Mexican Revolution in 1916 and they were kind enough to name the town for him.

Virden has seen virtually no growth since that time, and the population figures for Virden include the nearby unincorporated community of Summit. A couple miles further down the Gila River is the town of Duncan, Arizona, another community that has seen virtually no growth since the local mines closed.