The efforts of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources recently led a new historical marker re-dedication honoring the lives of the original Siamese Twins, Eng and Chang Bunker.
The informal ceremony was held after 3 p.m. Saturday at the Old White Plains Baptist Church, following the 25th annual reunion of the Bunker family’s descendants. The historic church was built on land donated by the twins, who also attended services there.
Department Research Historian Ansley Wegner explained the older marker was in need of repair and the department has an ongoing program to replace markers in bad shape when funding is available in its budget. She said the earlier marker had been in place since 1940. She said more information on the famous twins is on the new marker including a brief description of their lives.
“It was a different time in terms of entertainment and popular personalities in their day. This new marker contains more information about them as people and not just that they were Siamese twins,” said Wegner. “Many of the pre-World War II markers look dated. We want these markers to be another way to encourage people to find out more about their local history and the Siamese twins.”
She said she had made connections with the Bunker family through Facebook, where she made contact with annual reunion organizer Albert Blackmon. She said another project from the department is a North Carolina history by day project slated to be broadcast on radio. Wegner said this is also supported by a blog that lists events daily.
“This blog has proved very popular with thousands of hits a day,” Wegner said the department’s unofficial motto could be summarized as “history for all the people.” She said it is important residents are given a chance to learn their own collective history and that history, both good and bad, needs to be remembered.
Wegner said two other famous sets of conjoined twins Millie-Christine McKoy, ( who considered themselves one person) were born into slavery and later sold. The two, who went by a variety of stage names such as “The Carolina Twins,” performed as singers and met England’s Queen Victoria.
Another famous set of conjoined twins in North Carolina were Daisy and Violet Hilton. hey appeared in the film “Freaks.” They published their autobiography in 1942 titled “The Lives and Loves of the Hilton Sisters.” After World War II, the popularity of sideshows diminished, and the sisters later toured drive-in theaters in support of the film “Chained for Life,” in which they acted in 1950.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 or on Twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.