Abby’s entries from May 1867 continue.
Fri. 3 Went to ride with Hattie after tea and to meet father at seven. All the boys were at the depot. They were going to a concert in Lawrence and we had a jolly time.
Sun. 5 Hattie went to church with me in the morning. Went to a missionary concert in the evening. No boys were there at all.
Mon. 6 Went for a walk with M. Gleason after supper. About 6 or 7 boys came up the street and went to sit to smoke on the wall. I sent down for Hattie. I did not know how long they would stay but before she got up they had gone. I did not appear as I was alone I should think and the boys would call Hattie and I the Siamese or some such name for we are very rarely seen apart.
One of the most interesting things about Abby’s diary is how familiar, even modern, much of her language and many of her references are to us. When she says that the boys called her and her best friend Hattie ‘the Siamese,” we know exactly what she means.
Chang and Eng, the most famous set of conjoined twins, were born in Siam in 1811. They were brought to Boston in 1829, and after successful and profitable tours of the United States and Europe, they became U.S. citizens and retired to a plantation in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. In 1843, they married two sisters and raised large families – Chang fathered 10 children and Eng 11. Their tobacco plantation was a large enterprise, employing as many as 33 slaves, but the need for cash to send their sons to college forced the twins to come out of retirement for a six-week engagement at Barnum’s Museum in 1860. The War further devastated their fortunes (they each had a son who fought for the Confederacy) and they resumed touring until their deaths in 1874.
Abby also may have known of “the Carolina Twins”, Millie and Christine McCoy who were born slaves in North Carolina in 1851 and were exhibited in the United States and England, both before and after the War and their emancipation. Fluent in five languages, they were accomplished pianists, singers and dancers who were frequently billed as “the Two-Headed Nightingale.”