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Photos by Kristen Watson

First Denton Girl Scout recognized by state historical marker

Profile image for By Rhiannon Saegert
By Rhiannon Saegert

Two Girl Scouts, one from the past and another from the present, were recognized for their contributions to Denton at the Denton Civic Center on Sunday.

Girl Scout Elise Clements spent two years researching and writing about Beulah Harriss, the first Girl Scout in Texas and a Girl Scout leader in Denton County, to get Harriss recognized with a state historical marker.

Clements’ application was one of 20 that were considered, and the $1,900 marker was funded by the Texas Historical Commission’s Undertold Story program.

For her efforts, Clements, 14, was given her Silver Award, which is the highest honor a Girl Scout Cadette in the sixth, seventh or eighth grade can receive. To earn the award, Clements had to complete a community project that addressed an issue or cause.

That cause was Harriss.

“I wanted to figure out who the first Girl Scout was in Denton, and we went on the website and it had her name, but it really didn’t have a lot of history about her,” Clements said of Harriss.

Clements said she and her team spent most of their time editing and revising the nearly 20-page narrative about Harriss’ life and efforts for submission.

During Sunday’s ceremony, Harriss was recognized for her role in the development of Girl Scouts in Denton and her contributions to women’s physical education and athletics at North Texas State Normal College, now the University of North Texas.

“People of the past and events of the past are sometimes abstract, and it’s difficult to bring them to the present, bring them to the forefront of our minds,” Denton County Historical Commission chairman Charlotte Mooneyham said. “Marker dedication connects our minds and our hearts to some of these things of the past, and Beulah Harriss certainly forged a trail for us. So we’re here today to honor her and make that abstract remembrance concrete.”

Harriss became the first registered Girl Scout in the state when she moved from Nebraska to Denton in 1914 to become NTSNC’s first women’s physical education instructor, a position she held for 46 years before retiring in 1960. During that time, she helped start and organize several women’s athletic organizations and clubs and taught every sport except football. Harriss was inducted into the University of North Texas Athletic Hall of Fame in 1987.

Harriss died in 1977 at age 88.

Harris started the first Girl Scout troop in Denton at NTSNC in 1919. Harriss also helped create the still-active Green Jackets in 1925, a group of students who assist with university events and serve as role models to other students.

UNT emeritus professor Jack Watson, who was Harriss’ colleague and neighbor, approached Clements early in her project with first-hand information about her. Watson also spoke at the ceremony, describing her as a no-nonsense, deeply principled person.

“I was fortunate to have the privilege of knowing and being friends with her,” Watson said. “I think it’s the right thing to do, to have this marker for Miss Beulah in this place.”

The marker was placed in Quakertown Park, near the former location of the Girl Scout Little House.

RHIANNON SAEGERT can be reached at 940-566-6897 and via Twitter at @missmusetta.