The Callaghans of
Birds Landing, CA
In 1865, a young couple named Michael and Johanna Callaghan left Australia with their two young children and came to California. They settled in the Montezuma Hills, just west of the town of Rio Vista, in Solano County, and began developing a ranch where they would raise wheat and sheep. Having originally fled the famines in Ireland, they built a stable and prosperous situation for their family for generations to come.
When Michael and his family arrived in the Montezuma Hills in 1867, Birds Landing and Collinsville were growing and thriving communities. By 1879, Collinsville boasted three saloons, two stores, two hotels, several wharves, a post office, a Wells Fargo office, a telegraph office, a school, several churches, and a cannery. The train did eventually come to town and much of the industry surrounded the wharves, including ferrying uncoupled train cars across the Delta to Contra Costa County. By 1878, Birds Landing had blacksmith and butcher shops as well as a saloon, shoemaker, furniture maker, and post office.
Neither town was ever incorporated, and the post offices, schools, and churches are all gone now. The building of several bridges across the Delta and the extension of Highway 12 from Fairfield, both of which terminated in Rio Vista, spelled the end for Collinsville and turned it into an official ghost town. The total population of the two towns together was under 300 by the year 2000. Nearby Toland’s Landing is completely gone.
Michael and Johanna Callaghan came to the Montezuma Hills to build a brighter future for their family. One hundred years later, there were no more Callaghans living in the area. The ten grandchildren of Michael and Johanna produced only four great grandchildren. None of them were born in Solano County and only one of them spent any significant time in Rio Vista. By contrast, the descendants of Michael’s neighbor Neal Anderson numbered over 100 at a family reunion in 2010, many of whom still live and ranch in the area. The Callaghan family name only lived into the fifth and sixth generations as a middle name. Like the ghost town that is Collinsville, the Callaghans have become something of a “ghost family.” They went from rags to riches to a fading memory.
As one of their descendants who still benefits from the hard work and sacrifice of Michael and Johanna, I have attempted here to chronicle their lives and those of their descendants. I have tried to be as accurate and thorough as possible. Where information came from family stories or personal conversations, I have noted it and attributed it to the people who told the stories. I have verified the stories where I could and noted when I could not. For the places where I have fallen short (and I am sure there are many), I apologize.
My hope is that this work will help future generations appreciate those who came before them and begin to know and understand the people on whose shoulders they stand. I would like to especially thank Ruth Sutterquist and Judy Epps Gates at the Solano County Historical Society, Phil Pezzaglia and Beverly Bellows at the Rio Vista Museum, Janet at St. Joseph’s Church, and Leslie Batson at the Solano County Archives, as well as the librarians at the Rio Vista Public Library. I dedicate this work to my mother, the late Dolores Callaghan Quattrin, the last descendant born a Callaghan and a woman extremely proud of her heritage.
NOTE: Some pages of this website are password protected. For access email Kevin Quattrin