I wonder if when my maternal great-great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Jennings Jordan (b. 2/19/1867, d.1/26/1921), was nearing the end of her third and final pregnancy, if she had any indications about the children to whom she was about to give birth.  I have yet to learn of any details surrounding her pregnancy or the birth of Mary and Martha Jordan (b. & d. May 16, 1902), conjoined twins born near Lone Mountain, Tennessee.  The only thing I have been told is that they were stillborn.  Even with today’s medicine, according to an article on the University of Maryland Medical Center’s website (UMMC), conjoined twins only have a 5 to 25 percent chance of survival.  Here is the photo of a post-mortem portrait of Mary and Martha I received from my maternal grandmother.  I do not know who owns the actual portrait now.

Mary and Martha Jordan (b. & d. May 16, 1902)

There must have been a tremendous amount of pain and sorrow on the part of my great great grandmother after delivering the twins and unfortunately her troubles did not stop there.  Births of conjoined twins are extremely rare.  So in a small rural community word of the twins birth spread fast, well beyond its borders.  Several people particularly interested in the twins were involved in traveling circuses and freak shows.  They wanted to purchase the twins, most likely for display in a large glass canister.  My great great grandmother wouldn’t have it and went out of the way to bury Mary and Martha where no one would find them.

And she did a great job!  Last spring, my mother and I drove down to Tennessee to visit some family and walk some graveyards.  A cousin said he knew where Mary and Martha’s grave was and would take us.  We set out on some very curvy roads weaving through the woods of Lone Mountain, Claiborne County, Tennessee.  Well needless to say, great great grandma outwitted us and after more than an hour of driving around we left.  My cousin went back a month or so later, spent the day looking and realized where we took a wrong turn.  He found the grave and told us he would take us the next time we went back.

When I began writing this post I thought how nice it would be to have a photo of the tombstone to add.  I decided to do a Google search for Mary … Martha Jordan 1902 to see if there was anything out there, even though I doubted there would be.  As I looked down the results, the ninth one on the list displayed information for Mary and Martha Jordan who were conjoined twins!  I clicked the link and was extremely happy to see the following picture of the tombstone for Mary and Martha.  My grandmother assumes the stone was placed after a period of time so the circus people wouldn’t find the girls but we do not know when or by whom.


Mary and Martha Jordan
Born & Died
May 16 1902

The site with the photo is Liza Martz – A City Slicker on a Country Road and was attached to a post entitled “The Cemetery in the Cow Pasture and Other Grave Tales” dated April 10, 2010!  I can’t believe I didn’t think to look for them before now!  The lesson learned here is to ALWAYS look, even if you think finding something is a long shot.  A very big thanks goes out to Liza for allowing me to reuse her photo.  This a great addition to my family records as I am not sure when I will be back to Tennessee!  Thank you!!!

Mary and Martha’s life might have been short but it has left a lasting impression on me and all of their relatives.  Rest in peace.


  1. Ruth

    How very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

    Ruth Stephens
    Ruth's Genealogy

  2. Jenny Jones

    Very interesting, and a lovely tribute to Mary, Martha and your family members as well. This must have been a very difficult time for your ancestor. We just never know the trials they went through for us.

    Raking Through the Leaves

  3. Kerry Scott

    Wow. I can't imagine what your grandma went through. Good for her for protecting her babies and making sure they had a decent burial.