According to his obituary, Michael Callaghan was born in Charleville, Co. Cork. Charleville was a fair town on the Cork/Limerick border. His death certificate and tombstone say his birth date was April 10, 1832, but that is incorrect. According to his baptismal certificate and the ship’s record of his immigration to Australia, he was born and baptized in 1838. His daughter Nora, who gave the information for the death certificate, must have assumed Michael was older than Johanna.
Michael was born to John Callaghan and Honora Carroll and probably raised just outside of Charleville, across the border in Limerick. He was baptized in Effin, Co. Limerick, a township of 737 acres, halfway between Charleville and Kilmallock. This was probably his mother's home parish as there are several Carrolls buried there. The 1833 Tithe Allotment book shows a John Callaghan owning land in the township of Mountblakeny, just northwest of Effin. This could be Michael’s father, though he was listed as a laborer on Michael's marriage certificate, rather than a farmer and thus was probably not a landowner.
Little is known of Michael's early life. According to the 1900, 1910, and 1920 Censuses, Michael and Johanna immigrated to America in 1854, but this was incorrect. Also incorrect was family lore that Michael and Johanna had sailed from Ireland to America and that their first child, John Francis, had been born aboard ship while passing Australia. In fact, Michael and Johanna did not meet in Ireland and John was not their eldest child.
In July of 1858, a 19-year-old Michael Callaghan, bound for Australia, boarded the Bee, a 1200-ton ship built in Boston in 1853, with his father and siblings,. Another round of the Potato Famine, political unrest, and the rise of Irish Republican Brotherhood combined with the economic boom in Australia after the 1851 gold rush—and the death of Michael’s mother Nora—likely helped his father John decide to emigrate the family. They arrived in Adelaide, South Australia, on October 9, 1858, after a journey of 98 days during which six people died (five of the children under 1) and six more were born aboard the ship. Details of the voyage were posted in The South Australian Advertiser, Monday 11 October 1858:
The ship Bee, from Liverpool, arrived in our waters on Saturday, the 9th instant, having made her voyage in 98 days, although having very adverse winds to contend with throughout her progress. She reports leaving Liverpool on the 2nd July, and from her log we extract the following particulars of her voyage:
"Lost sight of land two days after taking her departure from port, with a strong gale from the westward, sighting the most north-westerly island of the Cape de Verd group (St. Antonio) on July 22nd, and did not fall in with the north-east trade winds until reaching the latitude (St. Antonio), during which the vessel ran the average speed of 280 miles in 24 hours. In lat. 12° N., lost the north-east trade, and fell in with the southerly monsoons, which invariably blew in this latitude during the months of August, September, and October. Captain Raisbeck reports them as veering during the period his ship was running them down from S. to S.W., and remarkably scant, driving his vessel far to the westward, fully 5° from the usual course, which is fully borne out by her report of having crossed the equator in longitude 31° 38' W. This transpired on July 29th, 27 days out. Shortly after sighting the Island or Fernando de Noranha, fell in with the S.E. trades, which were remarkably light and southerly, the course of the ship being parallel with the Brazilian coast, within 40 miles of land; from thence to the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope, which was reached on August 30th, occupied 20 days, and here experienced strong easterly winds for ten days, veering to the S.E., driving her northward. From the meridian of 100°, to reaching this port, 20 days have transpired."
The Callaghan family on the passenger list included the father, John (42), along with his children: William (20), Michael (19), Patrick (17), John (15), James (11), and Catherine or Kate (7). Effin Parish records only exist for Kate and James and do not go back before 1843, though Michael’s baptism in Effin was confirmed by his marriage record. William is likely a brother due to the family use of the name in successive generations. Patrick and John may be Michael’s brothers or might be cousins. Unlike William, they are not listed directly below John on the passenger list, as the others were, but are included several lines lower. The family is designated with an N, meaning they were Nominee Emigrants. This meant they had assisted passage, paid for in part by people in Australia trying to encourage members of the work force to immigrate.
John and his sons would have been among those “gentlemen of a very superior description.” Immigrants under this Nominee program were required to stay in Australia for at least two years. Michael stayed for seven years, but, after their arrival in Adelaide, no further traces of the rest of the family have been found.
It is not known where Johanna was initially placed or what jobs she might have had, but by the time Michael proposed to her in 1860, she was in the employ of Reverend Wm. Stones in Felip Stow, Paynham (outside of Adelaide). Michael proposed by way of a letter. It reads:
You are young
and you are prettie,
You are single,
What a pittie.
I am single for your sake.
What a charming companion for me you would make.
She replied yes, and they married on June 21, 1860, at the Church of St. Francis, Melbourne.
Michael and Johanna had two children in Melbourne. Nora was born on Bouverie Street, Carlton, in 1863, and John was born on Leicester Street, North Melbourne, in 1865. According to Johanna’s obituary and the 1900 Census, three other children did not survive childhood, but birth, baptism, or death certificates for them have not be found in Australia or California.
In late 1865 or early 1866, the family immigrated to San Francisco. Michael and Johanna were probably enticed to immigrate to California by the combination of available land through the Homestead Act and the ending of the Civil War. Prior to the 1860s, the Pacific crossing was made by clipper ship, but by 1866 steamship travel was much more common. Ships of the Pacific Mail Company usually took 45 days for the crossing, with a stop in Honolulu. The name of the ship and the dates of departure and arrival are lost to history.
Initially, Michael and family lived at 7th and Minna Streets in San Francisco, where Michael worked as a laborer while Johanna took in washing. Nadine used to say “3rd and Minna” whenever she wanted to refer to the poor, rundown part of town south of Market Street. She did not know at the time that her ancestors had lived in the area. A third child, James (named after his McCarthy grandfather and Callaghan uncle), was born in San Francisco in mid-September 1867. According to the Land Grant records, the family moved two weeks later to the Ranch Montezuma Hills on the Sacramento Delta on October 2, 1867. A fourth child, William, was born there in 1869.
The 1879 History of Solano County reads:
"By far the major portion of this township consists of large steep hills, known as the Montezuma Hills, from which the township derives it name. To one traveling over the level plains of the northern townships, these hills seem like small mountains, and it is a great surprise to strangers to learn that they are cultivated…
The trade winds sweep over this township with great force, bearing with it more or less dampness. It is very healthful throughout, even on the marsh land. The climate cannot be called delightful, although it is in California, but it is doubtless preferable for many reasons to the warmer sections further north."
The 1912 History of Solano and Napa Counties notes that Montezuma Township comprised a tract of treeless rolling hills for its northern sections and marshlands in the southern. It was rich and verdant, and “a vast sea of green [wild oats] waved in the almost eternal winds that swept and sweep over the country.” Summer temperatures often climb over 100 degrees Fahrenheit , and winters bring heavy rains, which could also fall in the summer. Dolores remembered visiting in the summer and having to stay at the hotel in Rio Vista because the road to the Ranch was impassible due to the mud.
The family homesteaded 160 acres of public land in Montezuma Township. The Homestead Act allowed for people to settle on public land and gain title after a time if they improved the land. They were required to sink a well, build a house, and bring 75 percent of the land under cultivation. According to witnesses William Jubb (a local farmer) and George Smith (a boatman) who filed statements as part of Michael pre-emption proof in 1870, he and the family had lived on the land continuously for three year and he had built a 12-foot by 24-foot house, a 24=foot by36-foot barn, a corral, a granary, and outhouses, as well as sinking a “good well.” The additions were worth $800. They also noted that he had cultivated all 160 acres with wheat and barley.
Another requirement was that the head of house become naturalized if not already a citizen. Michael carried out all the improvements and became a citizen on June 5, 1871, in the San Francisco District Court. In 1872, he was able to claim the 160 acres from the Illinois Industrial University.
The 1870 non-population census gives a great deal of information about the ranch. It shows that the land was worth $3,200 and housed $300 worth of farm implements. The crop was 25 tons of hay and 1,000 bushels of wheat worth $1,000. They had two horses and two cows worth $500. Total value was $6,200. No wages were paid that year, meaning the family did all the work by themselves. For comparison, the adjacent, 160-acre Sullivan ranch was worth $4,800. William Sullivan had more livestock and paid $8,000 in wages. That ranch’s total value was $16,500.
In 1874, Michael purchased another 160 acres of adjacent land from E. J. Upham for $4,000. He kept accumulating small pieces of land—16 acres here, 40 acres there—until, by 1880, he owned 358 acres worth $10,000 and had $900 worth of livestock. The value of the previous year’s production was $5,500, and he had paid for 18 weeks of hired labor. He had produced 720 tons of hay and cultivated 50 acres of wheat. He now had 10 horses, 20 swine, two cows that produced 250 pounds of butter, 40 chickens that laid 200 eggs, and 7 sheep and 6 lambs that produced 21 pounds of wool.
In 1883, Michael purchased the 640-acre Edwin Forrest Ranch and was renting the Stephen Markham Ranch, adjacent to the original Callaghan Ranch to the south. This gave him better road access to County Road #346, which ran from Toland Landing to Birds Landing. County Road #346 is now known as Montezuma Hills Road, but it was known as Callaghan Ranch Road on the 1920 Census. According to McKenney’s Directory of 1884-5, Michael owned or leased a ranch of 1276 acres. In the article about John’s wedding in 1890, Michael was referred to as “Mr. M. Callaghan, Esq., the extensive and well-to-do farmer of the Montezuma Hills” and the Home Ranch house as an “elegant and spacious home.”
The original ranch and the Stephen Markham property, which Michael purchased in May of 1891, were located halfway between Toland and Birds Landings. It became known as the Upper Ranch while the original was referred to as the Home Ranch. In 1897, John built a house on the Markham land, and Jim built a house on west half of the Lower Ranch section, which was at the bottom of Toland Grade. The two parts of the ranch were separated by part of the Peter Anderson Ranch.
Michael and Johanna lived on the Ranch for 40 years and, other than Michael’s trip to San Francisco to become a naturalized citizen on June 5, 1871, his occasional trip to Fairfield on business, and a vacation to St. Paul, Minnesota in September of 1895, they never seem to have gone anywhere else. Michael and Johanna rarely appeared in the local paper, but their children were often there. The family was active in the community, often serving as members of committees for dances and church faires at both St. Joseph’s Church in Rio Vista and St. Charles Borromeo in Collinsville. Michael’s biography does not appear in either of the county histories that were published in his lifetime, but that is not surprising since one had to pay to be in the books.
Michael and Johanna believed in education. Johanna enrolled her sons in St Mary’s College and her daughter in St. Gertrude’s Academy for Women. Michael served as one of three trustees for the Toland School District. In 1891, he was involved in trying to form a unified high school with the other four local school districts. One of the districts already had permission to form a high school, and the county school superintendent and all 15 trustee of the five districts were taken to court for forming another high school by an individual who believed that the change would force him to pay double taxes. The suit was dropped, but another plaintiff brought suit again in 1912. By this time, Michael had retired and his son Jim was on the Board. The plaintiff won and the boards were barred from mentioning a Toland unified high school. The Rio Vista Union High School was established anyway two years later.
In 1899, Michael built a new two-story, stick-style Victorian house on the east half of the Lower Ranch, across the boundary in the Rio Vista Township. It became known as the Home Ranch thereafter. Michael, Johanna, Nora and Bill moved in there with four ranch hands and their Japanese cook, Henry Saso. Bill moved back into the old Home Ranch when he married a year later. No photos of the Michael and Johanna are known to have survived, but the description given of Michael in the 1892 Great Register describes him as 5-feet, 9-inches, with fair complexion, blue eyes, and grey hair. The people in this Lower Ranch photo from 1915 are most likely Michael and his daughter Nora Callaghan, but it cannot be confirmed.
Johanna died at the Lower Ranch on April 9, 1909. Her obituary referred to her as a “highly respected resident of the Montezuma Hills” who died after “an illness of several months” (according to her death certificate, chronic pericarditis) that “ the latest attack coupled with her advanced age would not yield to medical skill and the loving care of her husband and children.” She had many mourners and several of the Andersons were pall-bearers.
Michael continued to live at the Lower Ranch house with Nora. Late in life, Michael had became involved in education and served as a trustee for the Toland School District. He also became a more involved in St. Joseph’s Church and, in September of 1911, he served as the sponsor to all the St. Gertrude Academy boys who were advanced for confirmation. His grandson Lester was one of those boys.
In 1919, with his health failing, Michael moved with Nora into the house in Rio Vista that she had bought. Over the next year, he spent extended periods of time confined to his bed. On April 4, 1920, Ruth and Madelyn returned to town to celebrate Michael’s birthday. It was the last time they would see him. Michael died on August 9, 1920, from chronic interstitial nephritis. His obituary referred to the “extensive land holdings which he had developed” and “a large circle of friends which was borne out by the representative people who attended his funeral.”
|Date of Birth||1st Apr 1838||VIEW SOURCE|
|Date of Death||1st Aug 1920||VIEW SOURCE|
|Father (First Name/s and Surname)||John Callaghan|
|Mother (First Name/s and Maiden)||Honara Carroll|
|Names of Siblings||William, Patrick, John, James, Catherine or Kate|
|Names of Children||Melbourne : Nora 1863, John 1865. San Francisco: James 1867. Sacramento Delta William 1869|