Board of Directors and Officers

Ken Johnston –  President

Ken is a retired educator and has been actively involved with California Historic Trails since 1974, when he was hired by Lassen National Park to develop a living history program to interpret the development of the Lassen and Nobles Trails, which are closely associated with the National Park. In 2012, he published a book titled Legendary Truths, Peter Lassen and His Gold Rush Trail in Fact and Fable.

He has been active in attending California-Nevada Chapter of OCTA Board meetings, national OCTA conventions, and trail tours and outings. He also attends Trails West meetings and outings to map and preserve the trails.

Steve Shaw – Vice President

Steve  Knight – Board Member

Steve and Patty Knight live in Carson City, Nevada.Steve has a degree in Geology and his interest in historic mining and ghost towns put him on the emigrant trails. He joined OCTA in the mid 1990s and served as CA-NV Chapter President from 2006 to 2008, during which time he and Patty revitalized chapter meetings with interesting



Dave Smythe – Board Member

Dave Smythe has been interested in history of the west since his early days in Idaho. He has been a member of OCTA and the CA-NV Chapter for many years. He served as Secretary for a short time and has conducted financial reviews of the Treasurer’s books. Dave holds an AA degree in Electronics from Cosumnes River College, a BA degree in Music from Chico State University, and  Master Degrees in Music and School Administration from the University of Nevada. His career has spanned many years in education teaching music in Challis, Idaho for 2 years, 13 years teaching music in the Tahoe-Truckee School District and 4 years at Maytan Music Center in Reno, Nevada.

After retiring from teaching, Dave owned and operated Sierra Music Center for 17 years in Placerville, California. Other accomplishments include: 45 years as a piano tuner, started and managed the Sierra Symphony in Placerville, and founder of the Cantare Vocal Group. He is a past President and a member of Placerville Kiwanis since 1983 and served on the Tahoe Forest Hospital Board of Directors for 4 years.

Dave lives in Placerville, California with his wife Shirley, and looks forward to years of continued effort to educate and preserve the history of the mid-nineteenth century western migration.

Dee Owens – Board Member

Dee is a retired elementary school teacher.  She began emigrant trail work on PIT (Passport in Time)  projects with Richard Silva.   She has worked with OCTA teams verifying and mapping emigrant trails in Northern California. Dee is the California-Nevada Chapter Webmaster and the compositor for the chapter newsletter, Trail Talk.

Marilyn Smith-Baranzini – Board Member


Dick Waugh –  Past President
Dick Waugh was born and raised in the Oroville, CA area. He served in the U.S. Army as a military police officer. He returned to Oroville and, after attending college, became a police officer with the Oroville Police Dept. He served with the Oroville Police Dept., Butte County Sheriff’s office and finished his career as the Chief of Police in Williams, CA. He retired in2006. He currently works part time as a Butte County



Phyllis Smith – Treasurer         


    Kathy Koester – Secretary

About 3 years ago I became interested in OCTA after learning about it at a
conference of the California Council for the Social Studies. CCSS is an organization with which I was involved for over 20 years having served the group in a variety of capacities from holding state wide offices to working on the annual conferences. As a new member of OCTA and the CA-NV chapter, I am looking forward to becoming involved with this group and participating in its many varied activities.

While I was teaching, I spent many summers viewing the Oregon Trail landmarks, visiting gold mine towns in Montana, seeing battle sites between the Plains Indians and the US Army, and seeing Revolutionary War and Civil War sites. Even though the purpose of each trip was to gain an awareness of these moments in history, it was also to have visuals to use in my American History classroom. Now that I am retired, after 40 years of teaching History to middle school students, I am
finding new avenues to explore which will continue to stoke my passion for history. OCTA and the California-Nevada chapter will provide learning opportunities in new directions.


Trail Talk Editorial Board:
Bob Evanhoe – Editor
Phyllis Smith – Assistant Editor
Dee Owens – Compositor
Jo Johnston – Proofing