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 eventually came 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, a school, 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. Like the ghost town that is Collinsville, the Callaghans have become something of a “ghost family.” The twelve 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 Callaghans went from rags to riches to a fading memory.