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Millie-Christine McKoy

Who was Millie-Christine McKoy?

Images of Millie-Christine in dress clothes.

Date of Birth: July 11, 1851           
Date of Death: October 8, 1912

Millie-Christine McKoy was born July 11, 1851, the eighth child of Monemia and Jacob McKoy. She was the middle child of 15. Her parents were slaves belonging to Jabez McKoy whose plantation was located about ten miles from Whiteville, a town in Columbus County, North Carolina.

The twins were joined at the lower backbone and had one pelvis. They had two upper bodies and two sets of arms and legs. Millie-Christine had two hearts and two brains and each could carry on a conversation with a different person. Each set of arms were sensitive only to Millie or Christine, but her legs were sensitive to both of them. Their brains worked independently of each other and they played together like any other sisters might, but they thought of themselves as one person, and hyphenated their name to reflect this belief. It was probably their mom, Monemia, that began calling the girls by one name, usually “Sister”. She often referred to Millie-Christine as her child rather than as her children.

Slave owner Jabez McKoy decided that it would be wise to have the conjoined twins displayed as curiosities to earn money for him, a common practice in the 1800s. He entered into an agreement with John C. Purvis, a man from South Carolina, in which he would receive a quarter of the proceeds from the twins’ exhibition. At some point Purvis was replaced by Mr. Brower, and finally Joseph Pearson Smith, both from Wadesboro NC. The twins lived with Smith and his family and were educated by his wife.

Millie-Christine definitely lived an eventful life, being kidnapped twice before they reached six years old. Throughout their lives they traveled worldwide and performed to great acclaim. They sang and recited poetry, much of it their own work. While in England, they even performed for Queen Victoria.
Their life may have been glamorous, but on the other hand, they were constantly under scrutiny. Most of their performances were preceded by medical exams, and they were often away from their family for months at a time.

In the 1880s when Millie and Christine were in their early thirties, they were able to slow their business career and move back to Columbus County. They had inherited the Jabez McKoy farm, where they were born, from their father who purchased the property several years before. Millie-Christine toured sporadically for the next few years, but began to enjoy longer stays at home.
In 1911, Millie contracted tuberculosis and died October 8, 1912. Twelve hours later Christine died. The twins were buried on the family property. In 1969, the graves were relocated to Welches Creek Community Cemetery.

Scroll through the images at the right to see original documents that help tell Millie-Christine’s story.  

consider this...

Would Millie-Christine have wanted to be separated if that had been possible?  Why or why not?

What were the challenges faced by Millie-Christine?
What were the challenges faced by Millie-Christine’s family?
Why do you think that Millie-Christine thought of herself as one person? 
How did people view people who were different or who had handicaps in the 19th century?


Who was Chang-Eng Bunker?

Another set of conjoined twins living in North Carolina was Chang-Eng Bunker, Find out more about the twins below...

Images of the "Siamese Twins", Chang-Eng Bunker.

Date of Birth: May 11, 1811         
Date of Death: January 17, 1874

Chang and Eng Bunker were born May 11, 1811 in Meklong, Siam, a country we know today as Thailand. Their mother’s name was Nok, their father’s name was Ti-eye, and they parented the children who would become the original Siamese Twins.

Chang and Eng were connected at the chest, and only shared feeling in this area of their bodies. Though they had very distinctive personalities and would go on to have separate wives, they referred to themselves in first person and signed their names as one person: the hyphenated “Chang-Eng".

When they were thirteen, the twins were noticed by a British merchant traveling in Siam named Robert Hunter. Robert became very intrigued with the boys and asked an American friend, Captain Abel Coffin, to share the money made by displaying the boys as oddities in sideshows in the United States and England. But first, Robert had to convince their mother and the King of Siam to agree to this plan. Robert promised to pay both Chang-Eng and their mother for the boys’ performances and, with that, Chang-Eng was off to debut in Boston Massachusetts, USA.

At first people didn’t know what to think of the twins; some were scared while others couldn’t believe their eyes. But they always came to see the twins again and before long Chang-Eng was famous. The twins toured across the US and England with tour manager James Hale until they were 21 years old, after which time they were no longer bound to work for Captain Coffin. Around this time the boys decided to work for themselves, got a new tour manager named Charles Harris, and with him Chang-Eng continued to travel and appear in shows for several more years.

They became naturalized US citizens in October of 1839 and, at age 28, the twins retired from show business and moved to Wilkes County, North Carolina. It was here that Chang-Eng met two sisters, Adelaide and Sarah Yates, and in April 1843 they were married. Over the next 31 years, the two couples had 21 kids and two farms to work, which kept the twins busy. They tried their hands at show business once more, this time bringing a few of their kids with them, until 1870 when they moved back home. Chang-Eng passed away in their home in Wilkes County on January 17, 1874.

Scroll through the images at the right to see original documents that help tell Chang-Eng’s story.  

consider this...

How were these twins different from Millie-Christine?

Last Updated July 31 2009