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The Interurban

By: John Watson

In 1902 the North Texas Traction Company had an Interurban (electric rail
car) line from Fort Worth to Dallas. By 1911 they decided a line to Cleburne
would be profitable and started construction of a line from Fort Worth
through Burleson, Joshua and on to Cleburne. The line went into service in
1912.

In Cleburne the line ran down the middle of Main Street to James Street and
turned east and crossed Caddo Street and made a turn-a-round behind the old
Liberty Hotel. The track on North Main Street was visible up until North
Main was made a four lane and then the rails were paved over.

In Fort Worth the line connected with the line that ran east to Dallas. In 1912
very few people had cars and to go to Fort Worth by horse and buggy was
almost a two day trip. With the Interurban you could catch a ride in the
morning, do your shopping and be back home that afternoon.

The Fort Worth to Cleburne segment of the rail line was known as the “Pea
Vine”. The “Pea Vine” earned its name because the Interurban rail cars were
painted green with a yellow stripe and yellow lettering.

The building that housed the Interurban depot in Burleson is located at the
corner of Ellison and Wilson Streets. At the time the building was constructed
in 1912 it was the first building in Burleson to have electric lights and ceiling
fans and the first to have a concrete floor.

From 1912 to 1931, the building not only served as a depot, electrical plant,
and freight storage facility for the rail line, but also as a pharmacy and soda
fountain.

By 1930 cars were more plentiful and the roads were better and ridership
dropped off for the Interurban. In 1931 the Interurban ceased operation.

The Burleson Heritage Foundation has acquired an old Interurban car #330
which they have restored. This car actually traveled the Fort Worth to
Cleburne Interurban line. The Burleson Heritage Foundation has placed the
car adjacent to the Heritage Visitors Center, where it is open for public tours.
They have constructed a permanent awning to protect the rail car from the
elements.

Today, the old depot is open to the public as the Heritage Visitors Center, a
resource for information about Burleson’s history and the centerpiece of
.Burleson’s Old Town shopping and historic district. The center is staffed
entirely by Heritage Foundation volunteers and it offers a unique opportunity
to view items of historical interest to the Burleson Community.

If you would like to learn more about the Interurban and its service to this area,
visit the Burleson Heritage Visitors Center. They have a lot of the history of
the Interurban along with pictures. There are also other items of interest. One
display that caught my attention was the old wooden telephone booth. The
Center is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

Now to the Interurban accident

A while back I got to thinking about an experience I had while on a
trip to San Antonio in 1962. You never know where, or under what circumstances, you
might learn something about your hometown.

While on the River Walk one day I stopped to rest at one of the benches along the
walkway. There was an older man, a wino, sitting on the nearby steps leading up to
the street level. He started a conversation with me and asked where I was from.
When I told him I was from Cleburne he looked thoughtful for a few moments then
asked if I remembered the interurban that used to run from Cleburne to Ft Worth.

I told him that the interurban had stopped running several years before my time but
I remembered dad talking about riding it and I remembered seeing the old rails
running down main street before they were paved over. He then told the following
story.

In the early part of the twentieth century he was a reporter for the Ft Worth Daily
News, now the Star-Telegram, and as a cub reporter his first big assignment was to
cover a story in Cleburne about a young girl who had fallen under one of the rail
cars and had both legs severed just below the knees. He then wanted to know if I
knew what finally happened to her as he did not hear any more about her after the
initial story. I told him that was the first I had heard of the story, but now I was
interested in finding out more.

The question now was; did this actually happen or was it just another story the old
man was telling.

After returning home I asked about the incident of a few acquaintances and no one
seemed to remember the incident. I let the matter drop for several years. Some time
later Al White moved to town and started publishing the Johnson County News. I struck
up a friendship with Al and one day I mentioned the story to him and told how I had
been unable to find anyone who knew any details about the incident. He suggested
that we run a query in the paper and see if we could find anyone who knew about the
story.

We got one reply from a person who remembered the incident and said that the girl had
survived, gotten artificial legs, finished school, went on to college then moved to
Washington, D.C. and got a job in one of the office buildings there.

This was all I found out about the girl until October, 2000 when I wrote another story
about the incident for the Cleburne Eagle paper. I heard from a lady that time who
gave me more details on the girl, including name, dates etc.

The girl was Valley Kovach, daughter of Alex Kovach, 430 Arbor Vitae St., Cleburne.
Mr. Kovach was a machinist for the Santa Fe Railroad Company. The accident happened
on October 6, 1912 when Valley was only 6 years old. She was fitted with her first
pair of artificial limbs in April, 1913 and her second pair in 1918.

Valley used neither crutch or cane, walked to school, which was several blocks from her
home, played most of the games with the other children and was one of the brightest
and cheeriest little girls in the area.

After finishing school Valley moved to Washington, D.C. and went to work in an office
there. Sounds like a happy ending to a horrible story, but wait a minute. That
isn’t all the story. On October 31, 1932, Valley was murdered by her boy friend in
her Washington apartment.