Roy Rogers, famous cowboy actor and singer known as "the King of the Cowboys," was born Leonard Franklin Slye in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 5, 1911, the son of Mattie Womack and Andrew Slye, a poor laborer. In 1912 Andrew built a 50-foot houseboat from salvaged lumber and floated with his family up the Ohio River to Portsmouth, where they beached the houseboat on property they had purchased and continued to live in it. Eventually Andrew purchased farmland and also worked in a shoe factory; with some of his earnings he purchased young Leonard a horse on which he was to learn the horsemenship that served him so well later in his movie career.
Rogers attended high school in McDermott, Ohio, but quit to help support his family by working in the shoe factory. Rogers and his family moved to California in 1930; working various jobs as a laborer during the Great Depression, he found that other itinerant workers enjoyed his guitar playing and singing around the campfires at night. Consequently he decided to try to make his living that way, and had little success until forming a group called "The Sons of the Pioneers." In 1934 the group had their first hit songs, and in 1935 Rogers appeared in his first movie. He worked steadily in Western films, still as Leonard Slye, but in 1938 when Gene Autry temporarily walked out on his movie contract, Leonard was brought in as a replacement and christened "Roy Rogers" by the studio. He became a matinee idol and an American legend. He married Dale Evans in 1947 (his third marriage; her fourth).
In the early 1960's Roy and Dale purchased the Apple Valley Inn near Victorville, California and made it into a popular tourist attraction by building the Roy Rogers Museum across the street from it, showing many of his mementoes from his film career, and his horse Trigger, stuffed and mounted. Roy had become interested in mineral collecting around 1968, through the influence of many of his Apple Valley neighbors, who were collectors. So he also displayed his mineral collection in several glass-topped cases in the museum. Whenever he had the chance, he would take his Jeep and go collecting in the desert. He also purchased specimens, including the mineral collections of several hobbyists in the area. He enjoyed cutting cabochons from agate and other lapidary rough, but his favorite specimens were the crystal groups.
Roy Rogers died of congestive heart failure on July 6, 1998, at the age of 86, having starred in over 100 movies as well as a weekly television show. Dale died in 2001 at the age of 88. Both were outspoken christians, and Roy was active as a Freemason and a Shriner.
In 2003 the Roy Rogers Museum was moved from Victorville, California to Branson, Missouri. Declining attendance evntually compelled the trustees to permanently close the museum in December of 2009. The mineral collection and other memorabilia were auctioned off by Bonham's in Los Angeles on May 6-7, 2010, and by Bonham's in New York on May 22-27, 2010.
COX, J.R. (1968) Happy rock trails. Gems & Minerals, no. 367 (April), 18-19.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||Roy Rogers with a quartz crystal cluster from his collection at the Roy Rogers Museum|