Fran Staggs (1919-2011) – long-time business force in the Midland area
Francis Harrison Staggs was a busy man in his nearly 92-year lifetime, and the fruits of some of his endeavors remain in the Midland area of the Westside.
Born July 26, 1919, in Topeka, Kan., Fran (as he was known) died March 23.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph and Addie Staggs; his wife Gladys (they were married in 1942, and she died in 2009); and five siblings. He is survived by his daughter, Gail Morgan, two grandchildren and three great grandchildren. The service was held at Living Hope Church March 29.
Among Fran Staggs' Westside accomplishments:
In a 2005 interview with the Pioneer, Fran said he bought the industrial park acreage from a man named Morrison (he could not recall the first name) who had been a conductor on the Midland Railroad. The property, since reclaimed, included land that had been used by the Standard or Philadelphia gold mills, which shut down in the early 1900s. “You're standing on 20 feet of tailings,” he told the interviewer.
Another Westside landmark was also for sale in 1954. “I could have bought the [Midland Railroad] roundhouse at the same time,” Staggs said. “They were asking $3,000 for three acres.”
Fran and Gladys moved to Colorado Springs in 1945 from Wichita, Kan., where he had helped make B-29s during World War II.
In an interview this week, Fran's daughter Gail recalled some of their experiences. “I was an only child,” she said. “I grew up climbing on lumber piles, chasing rabbits, being teased by the employees, that sort of thing.”
Fran and Gladys later built a cabin in the Crystal Park area. Fran built it, “a truckload at a time,” Gail said.
Another pleasant memory was seeing how her father related to the young men who came to work for him. “Dad was really a mentor for a lot of them, and a lot of them became successful and wound up having their own businesses,” she said.
One of them, Kenneth Dean Thompson, speaking at the funeral service, said he started working for Staggs Lumber when he was about 13. Over the years, he learned about his employer's background. Thompson said Fran had started the lumberyard - even though he had no experience in the business - when he heard local people “complaining about not being able to get any good wood.”
According to Thompson, Fran “picked up all his knowledge from his experiences and from reading trade magazines. Fran used every part of the wood fiber and put it to good use. He baled the sawdust and sold this to the horse people for bedding. The smaller scraps were used to make stakes for surveyors, bridging for house floor joists, and small blocks for making wood chucks for tanks on railroad cars for the Army at Fort Carson.”
Another former employee, Steve Hennings, remembered the time he told Fran he was going to help a customer load up his wood. “Fran looked me squarely in the eye and said, 'Son, that's lumber. Wood goes in a fireplace.' ”
Fran's son-in-law, Dennis Morgan, included these comments at the service:
“Fran was a hard man that demanded the most from his employees. It was often said if you could work for Fran you could work for anyone.
“We often wondered how come so many of his employees had such loyalty, but it was because in addition to being hard he was caring.
“He could chew you out one minute and turn around and give you $20 dollars when you were short at the end of the month.
“He taught young men how to work for something and pursue their dreams and he set an example that showed them that everything promised by the American dream was attainable with hard work, diligence, and a strong belief in God. He truly was an example of what is good about America.”
Westside Pioneer article