All Roads Lead to Newton Grove

All Roads Lead to Newton Grove.  By Pamela Monk Kelley.  2010.

All Roads Lead to Newton Grove. By Pamela Monk Kelley. 2010.

All Roads Lead to Newton Grove is a new book on the Monk family history by Pamela Monk Kelley.  Her grandfather, Theodore Babe Monk, and Thelonious Monk’s father, Thelonious, Sr., were brothers.  They were born and raised in Newton Grove, North Carolina.  Thelonious, Sr. moved to Rocky Mount for work in the growing railroad town.  Pam’s father Conley F. Monk moved to New Haven, CT many years ago.  Pam still lives there with many family members, working as an educator.

Pam’s book has rare and previously unpublished recollections from family elders concerning Thelonious Monk’s father.  As Robin D.G. Kelley (no relation to Pam) first disclosed in his great biography of Monk, Thelonious Sr. was confined to the State Hospital for the Colored Insane (known as Cherry Hospital today) in Goldsboro, NC for most of his adult life.

All Roads Lead to Newton Grove has a previously unpublished photograph of Hinton Cole Monk, the pianist Thelonious Monk’s grandfather who was born into slavery in Newton Grove in 1852.  There is also a photograph of Monk’s widow Nellie Smith Monk standing on the porch of the white Monk plantation house, which is still there today.  After Monk died Nellie began attending the family reunions in North Carolina.

The book has moving discussions of the intermixing of the races in the Monk family and the resulting variances in skin colors.  In 2009 a member of the white side of the family, Matthew Monk, contacted Pam and a heartfelt reunion took place.  Matthew is a descendant of Archibald Monk, the original white patriarch, slaveowner and landowner.

There has been talk of a big, integrated Monk family reunion in Newton Grove in the future.  The North Carolina Museum of History and Department of Cultural Resources has been interested in aligning the reunion with their upcoming four-year commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.  Sherman’s March went right through the Monk plantation site (Hinton Monk would have been thirteen) and the Battle of Bentonville was about less than ten miles away.

Pam’s sister, Edith Monk Pue, an ordained bishop, recently moved back to Dunn, NC, which is fifteen miles away from Newton Grove.  Pam had a book signing in Dunn over Thanksgiving weekend.  There’s a photograph of Thelonious at the piano on the cover of her book (image above).  Knowing the historian that Thelonious was musically and personally, I believe he would have liked what Pam has done to honor the family history – the whole family, not just the famous musician.

You can buy All Roads Lead to Newton Grove by clicking here.

Here is my 2007 piece on Monk’s North Carolina background in the Oxford American magazine.

-Sam Stephenson


  1. Marcella Monk Flake Said,

    December 9, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

    I am so proud of the work my sister, Pam, has done. This labor of love, began years ago with our Dad, Conley F. Monk Sr. Because of her dedication to this project, our children and future generations of Monks will know their rich history. Thank you Pam. I love you and I am so very proud of you !!!!

    Your Sister,

  2. Bertha Monk Said,

    December 13, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

    I have been searching for a long time on the history of how Atkin Monk was related to Robert Lee Monk and
    Anna Monk. They were from Newton Grove, NC. Atkin’s had 17 children living in Roseboro and Clinton NC. Atkin Monk is my grandfather and he was born in 1891. My dad is James Monk. If you would or could help me locate information on the family I would be very greatful.

    Thank You
    Bertha Monk

  3. Pamela Monk Kelley Said,

    January 8, 2011 @ 2:34 am

    Hello Bertha,
    Please contact me at I would like to assist you with locating and connecting with our family.