Roy Rogers

Article taken from The Portsmouth Daily Times, Sunday, September 21, 2003

Roy Rogers & Dale Evans
(photo courtesy of Portsmouth Public Library)

Born to Root for the Reds From Duck Run to Hollywood Roy Rogers Starts Busy Days in Ohio  


Scioto County has produced some notable people over its life, but none who went on to gain the world fame that Roy Rogers did.  He was a star of the big screen and later on a syndicated television show even had has own comic book.  Riding after the bad guys on his palomino, Trigger, he soon became every little kid's hero as King of the Cowboys - a living symbol of what was good, right and decent. Rogers was born Leonard Slye Nov. 12 1911, in Cincinnati, but was only seven months old when his parents, Andrew and Mattie Slye, moved the family in a house-boat upstream to Portsmouth, the Slyes' old hometown.

Andrew Slye bought a small farm on Duck Run in 1919 and moved the family from the houseboat into a rundown house in the woods. The family then included Rogers' sisters, Mary, Cleda and Kathleen. Andrew Slye soon built a new two-story house for his family and Rogers would live there until he was 17, attending the Duck Run one-room school a mile away for eight and later spent two year at McDermott High School.  Somewhere along the way he taught himself to strum a guitar.  He dropped out before his junior year and went to join his father who, because of the family's dire financial shape, had returned to Cincinnati to work in a U.S. Shoe factory.

In 1930 the family loaded up in a 1923 Dodge and drove to California to visit Mary, who had married and moved there.  They stayed four months, came back to Ohio, then moved to California for good.  Roy Rogers first earned national attention in the 1930s sining "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool Water" with the Sons of the Pioneers.  Slye chose the screen name of Roy Rogers in honor of humorist Will Rogers, whose final public appearance before his accidental death in 1935 was a Sons of the Pioneers concert in San Bernadino, Calif.   Over the years, as his fame grew, Rogers made frequent trips to visit friends and family still living in Scioto County.

His last visit came in 1994, when he attended the annual Roy Rogers Festival in Portsmouth.  Friends said he never forgot the place where he grew up, and that when he came back home he always referred to himself as " Leonard Slye."  Roy Rogers was laid to rest on a Saturday, July 11, 1998, near his home in Apple Valley, Calif., where he had died five days earlier at age 86.