The Carolina Conjoined Slave Twins Born in 1851

by BrendaBarnes

In 1851 children who were born ill or with special needs seldom survived. Conjoined twins Millie and Christine McKoy had a double dose of danger. They were also born into slavery .

Jacob and Monemia were slaves but that did not dampen the joy they felt at becoming new parents again. The mother had delivered other healthy babies without issues or problems. But this delivery was different and after many hours of labor, the midwife held up an odd assortment of arms and legs. The babies were attached at the pelvis and bottom of the spine. But the mother loved the girls and nurtured them just like any other baby. They flourished and grew into beautiful children, or was it only one child? Medical knowledge was minimal concerning matters like this so Millie and Christine were considered to be one child with two torsos and two heads.

Millie and Christine-From Slavery to Queen Victoria

Life on the Road

Conjoined twins Millie and Christine were born in Columbus County, North Carolina in 1851. Connected at the lower spine and pelvis by a seventeen inch band of tissue, the shared a central nervous system from that area down to their feet. If one’s legs were touched, both felt it. But if an arm was touched, the other twin was not affected at all.

Other than this abnormality, the twins developed normally, learning to crawl and walk like babies usually do. Their unusual appearance though drew curious people who wanted to see the “two headed baby” with their own eyes. Realizing he could make money from them, their owner, Jabez McKay, sold them for one thousand dollars when they were ten months old.

The new owner was a showman who traveled with the girls, exhibiting them as freaks. He eventually resold them for six thousand dollars to Joseph (James) Smith who had connections. The girls were only three years old when they appeared in P.T. Barnum’s Museum in New York City. Millie and Christine were then kidnapped by another showman, taken to England and exhibited across Europe.

Smith had purchased the entire family from Jabez McKay and settled them in Wadesboro North Carolina while the girls’ mother, Monemia, traveled with the twins. But an unscrupulous man stole the twins and fled to England with them. Smith eventually located them and took Monemia with him to Europe to regain custody. It was a furious battle in court with the fake owner paying women in to testify they were the birth mother. One stole his money and left town while another took the stand but could not hold up under cross examination. The actual mother was able to convince the judge and the twins were released to Joseph Smith who returned them to America.

Before the ship sailed though, a message was sent that a great lady wished to gaze upon the Double Headed Girl. Monemia bundled them up and they were all hustled into a fine carriage and taken to Osbourne House where they met Queen Victoria. She was pleasant and even spoke kindly to Monemia, offering conversation from one mother to another. Millie and Christine left with many gifts from the monarch and fondly remembered that visit for the rest of their lives.

Back in America and settled in Wadesboro, North Carolina, Smith’s wife taught the conjoined twins to read and write along with social graces such as dancing and playing the piano. These new skills made them more valuable and interesting when again exhibited as the Two Headed Girl.

When they were on the road, the girls carried papers authorizing them to travel under one ticket, thereby adding validation to the theory they were only one person. This continued for years until 1860 when political unrest in New Orleans forced Joseph Smith to retreat to North Carolina. They all remained there for a while then Smith became ill and soon died. Millie and Christine greatly grieved at his passing for he had been good to them and taken great care of them. His good heart had not made him a businessman though and he left little money to maintain his family, his home or his slaves.

The twins decided to go back to work and while remaining under the guardianship and protection of Mrs. Smith, began exhibiting themselves to earn money. There used the funds to care for the remaining Smith family, their own parents and siblings and also donated monies to build churches and schools for blacks.

In 1866, Millie and Christine submitted to a thorough examination to silence rumors that they were fakes. The physician’s certificate always accompanied them thereafter to prove their bond was indeed real.

Millie and Christine appeared as entertainers and freaks of nature for the next thirty years, travelling extensively. They even returned to Europe, of their own volition this time, and performed for Queen Victoria who gave them diamond hairclips as a sign of her great regard.

His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales accompanied by Prince John of Glucksburg and the Grand Duke, Valdimar, of Russia even paid them a visit while they were performing (documented in the MorningPost). They then called themselves the Two Headed Nightingale because they sang songs taught them by Mrs. Smith and even performed this feat in five languages. They even wrote a song themselves and regularly sang it at performances.

Millie and Christine wrote a booklet about themselves, including the medical descriptions of their condition, entitled History and Medical Description of the Two-Headed Girl. It is believed to have been released in 1869. They speak of themselves in the plural but adamantly state they feel like one person because they have never been apart and are vehement in their desire to never undergo surgical separation.

By the late 1880’s the duo known as Millie-Christine was getting tired and suffered some health issues. We know they traveled until then because ticket requests document this fact.The twins retired to the farm they had bought for their father, formerly a slave, and now a landowner and remained in seclusion for most of their remaining years.

In 1912, Millie became seriously ill with tuberculosis and it was obvious she would soon die from the disease. A petition to the Governor was made arguing for emergency surgical separation of the twins so Christine would have a chance at survival. However physicians did not hold much hope of success and Christine did not want the surgery. On October 8, 1912 Millie died and shortly afterward Christine was given a lethal dose of morphine which gave her a peaceful passing. She died approximately twelve hours after her beloved twin departed this earth.

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Updated: 09/18/2012, BrendaBarnes
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BrendaBarnes on 01/23/2014

They sure did Beth. I think they were brave and inspiring.

Beth on 01/23/2014

I loved the story, very interesting, what a hard life they had !!!!

BrendaBarnes on 01/17/2013

Thanks Tolovaj. I agree. This would be a beautiful movie. I am so glad you liked my retelling of this sad yet inspirational true story.

Tolovaj on 01/17/2013

Thanks for this touching story. It has a sad ending but the story itself is really really beautiful. It could make a great movie.

BrendaBarnes on 01/02/2013

Hi Ed. It is good to see you. I intend to get more articles here on Wizzley. I had another but the score kept plummeting although it was about an important medical condition. So I moved it. I will follow you on here also. I love the Wizzley look.

Sheri_Oz on 10/09/2012

I was engrossed in your telling of this story. How lucky they were to have kind people around them (except for when they were kidnapped).

BrendaBarnes on 10/07/2012

Hi sheilamarie. They sure did have lots of love. Those girls made the best of a difficult life.

sheilamarie on 10/07/2012

Very touching story, Brenda. What a strong emotional bond they had, too.

BrendaBarnes on 10/01/2012

Hi Victoria Lynn.It is great to see you also. I am loving Wizzley. I am pleased you liked the article on the twins. I was fascinated by it.

BrendaBarnes on 10/01/2012

Hi Mira. I always feel bad when I use words like owner and master but like you have to remind myself of the era I am writing about. The lives of these girls was amazing. It would make a great movie. Thanks for reading about them.

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