Interurban Alley

Multi-chamber partnership between Howe, Van Alstyne, Anna, and Melissa

Interurban Alley has been given to the stretch of US Highway 75 in the growing North Texas region between McKinney and Sherman. This is a partnership between four chambers from Melissa, Anna, Van Alstyne and Howe.

The Texas Electric Railway is a historic interurban railroad that operated from Dallas, Texas, to Denison, Corsicana, and Waco. It began operation in 1908 and through the merger of several companies became the largest interurban railway operator in the South before its demise in 1948.  The interurban ran through the heart of Melissa, Anna, Van Alstyne and Howe during this time.

In 1901 the Denison and Sherman Railway opened as the first interurban rail line in Texas, connecting the towns of Denison and Sherman with ten miles of track. This line was purchased in 1911 by the Texas Traction Company, who had constructed a sixty-five-mile line of their own from Dallas to Sherman and began operation in 1908. Seeing a need to expand in other directions, the owners of the Texas Traction Company purchased a twenty-eight-mile line from Dallas to Waxahachie in 1912. Built by the Dallas Southern Traction Company, the company became known as the Southern Traction Company and the rail line extended to Waco in 1913. A separate fifty-six-mile line from Dallas to Corsicana was also completed. In 1917 the Texas Traction Company and the Southern Traction Company merged to form the Texas Electric Railway Company and became the largest interurban railway in the South with more than 200 miles of track. The interurban became a vital link for communities until the popularity of the automobile caused a decline in revenue. The Dallas-Corsicana branch was discontinued in 1941 and the Dallas-Waco and Dallas-Denison branches closed in 1948.

Today several pieces of infrastructure still remain:

The wood frame passenger depot in downtown Plano and its attached brick electric transformer section remained in use until December 31, 1948. The Plano Station building now hosts the Interurban Railway Museum where a restored Texas Electric Railway car may be seen and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Monroe Shops (1914), once the maintenance facility for Texas Electric’s vehicles, was restored in 2011 and now serves as headquarters to the DART Police Department.

The Dallas Interurban Building (1916), once serving as the main Dallas depot, now houses residents and retail.

2019 Howe Hall of Honor nomination form

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Donal Gilstrap

Donal Gilstrap, a first-time nominee, was most known for his position as Howe High School principal during three different decades. While also serving as the elementary and middle school principal, it was his gentle yet stern approach to leadership that won his respect among students and peers. Gilstrap grew up picking cotton in the 1940s and was not able to attend school until all of the cotton was picked, which was usually around November. His mother had a sixth-grade education and his father received no education at all, but he was a hard worker. Strength was a family trait as Gilstrap used his ability in football to earn a college degree at Hardin-Simmons University. Post college, he spent four years in the Army including a free vacation to Korea. While stationed at Lawton, Oklahoma, he met the love of his life Barbara whom he married in 1959. Together, they had two children, Catherine and Patrick. He was recruited to Howe by six school board members who drove to Lubbock to recruit him.  

Jean Norman

Jean Norman, nominated for the second straight year. She will go down in Howe history in much of the same regards as Mame Roberts and Norma Wallace – a truly iconic figure among all of Howe’s finest ladies. Her fingerprints of leadership are seen throughout the community from Bonham to Dorchester and especially from Ponderosa to Farmington. She was instrumental in forming the Howe Public Library and eventually the Howe Community Library. Her leadership helped breathe life into the former Howe First Christian Church, not once but twice. Norman was a key member of the foundation and the formation of the Howe Historical Society in the 1980s and 90s and renovated the church previously to house a museum. Serving most recently as president of the Save the Church organization, the group has raised enough money to transform one of Howe’s oldest buildings into a beautiful wedding venue. The longtime school teacher has also been a longtime member and church leader at the First Baptist Church of Howe. She was named the 1992 Norma J. Wallace Citizen of the Year and 25 years later was nominated once again for the award.  

J.J. Chisum

J.J. Chisum, nominated for the second straight year, was perhaps the most loved man in Howe from the time he opened Chisum’s One Stop Grocery Store in July of 1957. He was called the “One-Man- Chamber of Commerce” as he helped give information to anyone that asked. Mr. Chisum often ran open tickets for families knowing well he would never get paid. His response was always that he couldn’t stand to see anyone not have food on their table. Mr. Chisum was the Norma J. Wallace Citizen of the Year in 1985.

Bob Walker

Bob Walker, most known for operating the Howe Enterprise. He put out a weekly publication for 421 consecutive weeks from 1966 to 1974. He was instrumental in reforming the Howe Chamber of Commerce in 1972 and served as the chairman of the Howe Centennial Committee which was a week-long festival and celebration of the city and its fine history. He was elected as the Howe Chamber of Commerce President in the 1970s which saw the volunteer organization run at its full peak of operation at that time. Mr. Walker also served on the Planning and Zoning Commission of Howe. After selling the Howe Enterprise, he went on to own and operate Allied Office Supply in Downtown Howe for a number of years until his retirement in 1989.

Steve Simmons

Steve Simmons came to Howe in 1987 as a coach for Howe ISD. His motivating nature has inspired a couple of thousand kids and adults to be highly motivated, truly dedicated as well as rough and tough. Perhaps no one in Howe’s history has held so much pride and love for their community and the children of Howe. He has served as the elementary physical education instructor for Howe ISD for nearly 30 years. As well as his work with children, he’s also been a varsity football, powerlifting and baseball coach and junior varsity basketball coach. As a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Howe, his faith is unquenchable. It is only a matter of time before something in this town is named Steve Simmons something.

Jimmy Bearden

Jimmy Bearden was a longtime Howe ISD school board member as well as serving as Youth Baseball Commissioner and coach. He was a volunteer fireman as his father before him. Mr. Bearden was instrumental in bringing an all-weather track to Bulldog Stadium.   As Vice President of Magni-Fab, he provided labor and materials to many local projects such as directional signs in Howe, Yard of the Month signs, backstops for ball fields, benches for dugouts. One of his last endeavors was to build a tram for the Grayson County Fair Association to carry the elderly and disabled to and from the Fair Grounds. Mr. Bearden received the Norman J. Wallace Citizen of the Year Award in 2001.

Norman Dickey

Norman Dickey was hired by Howe schools in 1964. He took a football program that was on the verge of collapsing due to the lack of willing participants and grew it to a District, Bi-District and Regional Champion team just six years later.  After 12 years as head coach of the Howe Bulldogs, he holds the most wins of any football coach in school history with 51. After spending time as a coach, math teacher, counselor, interim principal, interim superintendent, and three-time interim athletic director, Dickey retired from the school district in 1996. In addition to his accomplishments, Dickey spent countless hours mowing Bulldog Stadium, working on the scoreboard, running the clock, officiating junior high games, keeping the stats and everything in between.