North Carolina’s ‘other’ conjoined twins don’t have same celebrity status

Millie and Christine McKoy, African-American conjoined twins born into slavery near Whiteville in 1851. Their last name was originally spelled McCoy.

Millie and Christine McKoy, African-American conjoined twins born into slavery near Whiteville in 1851. Their last name was originally spelled McCoy.

Note: Scott Sexton is a columnist for the Winston-Salem Journal.

OAK ISLAND, N.C. — Understanding what Samuel Matthews had to say wasn’t the easiest thing in the world.

He spoke with a thick accent familiar to anyone who’s traveled through Eastern North Carolina, and his voice sounded as if he had just swallowed a handful of the sandy soil native to this end of the state. His cell phone connection wasn’t the greatest, either.

And he might have been drinking.

But when Matthews understood that I wanted to ask him about his relatives Millie-Christine McKoy, the “other” conjoined twins from North Carolina, his grumbly demeanor changed considerably for the better.

“Why didn’t you say so? They were right famous in their day,” he said.

Thought of as one person

Most everyone, particularly in our part of the state, has heard of Chang and Eng Bunker — the original “Siamese twins” made famous by P.T. Barnum’s traveling circus.

Not quite as well known were the McKoy sisters. According to the N.C. State Archives, Millie-Christine was born July 11, 1851, the eighth child of slaves belonging to a man named Jabez McKoy, a farmer whose plantation was about 10 miles from what is now Whiteville.

The twins, who thought of themselves as one person, were joined at the lower back and shared one pelvis. Millie-Christine had two hearts and two brains and could carry on conversations with two different people at the same time. Her mother, too, thought of Millie-Christine as one child and treated the twins as such.

Viewed as a curiosity, the girls were kidnapped twice before they were 6 years old. Jabez McKoy, the plantation owner, figured to capitalize on them and entered into an agreement with another landowner to split the proceeds.

Eventually, they enjoyed some measure of fame. Millie-Christine traveled to Europe, sang and recited poetry they wrote. They even had an audience with Queen Victoria when they traveled to England.

In their early 30s, the twins returned to Columbus County and settled on the farm where they were born after inheriting Jabez McKoy’s plantation from their father who had purchased it.

In 1911, Millie contracted tuberculosis and died a year later, on Oct. 8, 1912. Christine died 12 hours later.

Read more: Winston-Salem Journal

8 comments

  • Savannah Barrett

    @Scott Sexton: Just curious as to why you included this statement in your story: “And he might have been drinking.” What does this bring to the story you’re trying to tell?

  • Lynette hooper

    Comments like yours continues racism. Enough already. I’m not racist and refuse to behave in such a way. Try to change….it will happen one person at a time!!!

  • Carolyn J Reese (Powell)

    Millie-Christine known as the Carolina Twins
    Columbus County Board of Commissioners – Amon E McKenzie Chairman and the Governor of North Carolina issued a document and proclaimed October 9, 2012 and every 9th of October thereafter be declared as the “Millie-Christine McKoy Day” throughout all of Columbus County, North Carolina was adopted 1st of October 2012. Governor Beverly Perdue stated that each Library in North Carolina will have a Large Picture of Millie-Christine hanging in the Lobby of the library starting 2013.
    Millie-Christine was joined at the base of their spine and could later have themselves separated but choose not to and stating “One thing is certain; we will not wish to be severed even if science could effect a separation. We are content with our lot and are happy as the day is long.” When they were around 20 years old they appeared in front of President Lincoln at the White House, and appeared in front of eight countries of royalties. Millie-Christine spoke seven different languages (Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and French, to give a few). She was the sibling of 15 children born to Monemia. My Grandfather Arthur Powell is the son of Millie-Christine’s sister Elvia. There is so much to say about Millie-Christine. 1st – She was educated by the Queen of England bu private tutors. 2nd – she dedicated her life to education of Negros by supporting A&T Black college of Greensboro, and other Black colleges. Her life story is in material form in Whitesville, NC and in a book called Millie-Christine Fearfully and Wonderfully made (Joanne Martell). And, many, many newspaper article dating back from 1800’s up to 1934 and then some. My Aunt Mary Kate (Mitchell) Allen is alive and very proud of her heritage of Millie-Christine. October 2012 was the gathering of the family generation of Millie-Christine’s siblings children, children.

    This is set the story correct and who is Samuel Matthews anyway. Who is he connected with(mother or father)? I would like to know. Also, have the reporter who wrote this piece contact me.

    • Brian McKoy

      Thank you Carolyn. You really set the record straight. We have quite a bit of information about the twins. Fred McKoy my father who is 93 knows a lot more than Matthews. They bought his father his first suit. Brian McKoy

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