MOUNT AIRY, N.C. -- Hundreds of descendants of the famous Eng and Chang Bunker, the original Siamese twins, are coming home for the 30th family reunion.
Representatives from the twins' homeland, now Thailand, arrived Friday to sign a sister city agreement with Mount Airy and North Carolina leaders.
“They had to live somewhere and we are fortunate they chose here,” said Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council and the great-great-granddaughter of Eng. “There is a concentration of decedents here of over 1,500.”
Jones helped start a museum inside the arts council for her famous family members and is working to break ground on a new museum in the near future.
The twins were brought to the U.S. to be widely exhibited as a curiosity. While they became famous worldwide for being conjoined they also made a name for breaking many boundaries.
In 1843, they retired to the foothills, married sisters Adelaide and Sarah Yates, and farmed hundreds of acres outside of town in White Plains. Together they had 21 children.
“The older you get, you want to know more about where you came from,” said descendant Jorga Clouse, who drove from Oklahoma to attend the reunion. “Growing up in Oklahoma everyone assumed I was Indian and I would just say thank you.”
They became unofficial diplomates and were the first Siamese to become U.S. Citizens.
They are buried in a cemetery behind the White Plains Baptist Church, which they helped build on land they donated to the community.
“There are so many descendents living around this area,” said decedent Zack Blackman Jr., who traveled to the twins' homeland last year. “We are proud of our Thai heritage and the impact they made.”