The Siamese Twins at home in Mt. Airy

Posted by | September 14, 2010

(original spellings have been kept from the following narrative  –ed.)

In the year 1843, an occurrence took place of not a little importance to the subjects of this narrative.  For some time previous they had been admirers of a couple of amiable and interesting sisters, the daughters of Mr. Daniel Yeats, who resided six miles north of Wilksbarre, and in April of that year, they were united in the bonds of matrimony; Miss Sarah Ann Yeats becoming Mrs. Eng, and Miss Adelaide Yeats becoming Mrs. Chang Bunkers.

There may have been many interesting incidents connected with their courtship, but if so, they have not come to the knowledge of the writer.  It is to be presumed, however, from the manner in which it terminated, that it was conducted to the satisfaction of the parties immediately interested.  The twins certainly possessed some advantages over the generality of lovers, as on their visits to the objects of their regard, as well as on their return, let the hour be never so late, neither was obliged to plod his way alone, but each was sure to have the company of his brother.

So, too, in the delicate manner of ‘popping the question,’ it would naturally be supposed that much of the embarrassment usually attendant upon that critical moment must have been prevented, or at least, that each individual could have been troubled with a small share of it, when there were four parties to divide it between them.

Chang and Eng Bunker marry Adelaide and Sarah Yates

Mrs. Eng is now the mother of six children, and Mrs. Chang of five.

In the fall of 1846, the twins, with their families, removed to Mount Airy, in Surry county, where they now reside.  Ever since their marriage, they have engaged in agricultural pursuits, and cultivate quite an extensive plantation.  Their children, all of whom are old enough to receive instruction, are remarkably bright and intelligent, apt scholars, and models of good behavior.  They are are very ambitious, and every possible care is being bestowed upon their education.

As their fathers’ plantation is some distance from the village of Mount Airy, a house has been built in the village which is occupied by Mrs. Eng and the children, so that they can be kept constantly at school.  They all partake strongly of the most refined Siamese cast of countenance, are highly prepossessing in their appearance, and are great favorites in the community in which they live.

Messrs. Chang and Eng are strict and thorough going businessmen, remarkable for their energy and industry, and frugal in their manner of living.  They are excellent hands to carry up the corner of a log house—exceeding all their neighbors in cutting saddles and notches in corner logs—both of them wielding the axe, double handed, with a power and dexterity superior to any of the most expert wood choppers, even in that wooden country.

The two generally chop with a single axe, but each can use one at the same time without interfering with each other.  In this manner they will chop on the opposite side of a tree, and bring it down in an exceedingly short space of time.  They are inveterate smokers and chewers, each chewing his own quid and smoking his own pipe.

It has been remarked that whenever one takes a fresh quid the other invariably does the same. In their property, and in all their business transactions, they are partners, and in signing papers, one always signs for both.  They are quite sensitive, especially in regard to their domestic relations, and disposed to shun observation, which will account for their having selected so retired a portion of the country for their residence.

They are visited, however, yearly by great numbers of people drawn thither by curiosity, and always treat visitors with the utmost civility.  They are devotedly attached to their families, and appear perfectly contented with their situation, being decidedly domestic in their habits, and rarely going away from home unless called away upon business.

They acknowledge themselves to entertain a strong Christian faith, or belief, and are regular attendants at church and other religious meetings, where they deport themselves as good citizens of the land of their adoption. They are strong politicians, and take a lively interest in all elections that occur in their district.

The question of the probable success of an attempt to separate the twins by a surgical operation, has, naturally enough, been often discussed among professional men.  In the United States and England, the faculty, with very few exceptions, thought it would be attended with fatal results, while on the continent of Europe, every medical man who had an opportunity of examining them, declared that there would be no more chance of their surviving such an operation, than of living after their heads were cut off. One thing is certain: they have never felt the slightest disposition to allow anyone to try the experiment.

“An Account of Chang and Eng: The World Renowned Siamese Twins,” by T.W. Strong, 1853, North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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