A Brief History: Early Life of Jim Jones

The experiment of a communal church in the San Francisco Bay area and the Agricultural Project in Guyana were the vision of Reverend James Warren Jones. Born during the Great Depression in the small Midwestern town of Crete, Indiana, Jones grew up in poverty and isolation. His mother Lynetta (Putman) Jones worked odd jobs throughout the region, while his father James Thurman Jones was disabled during World War 1 and increasingly sunk into alcoholism.

The stories of his early life are now shrouded in the haze of lost and constructed memories. The stories that Jones told of his young life were more morality tales than biographical reflections. Several can be collected from interviews, sermons, the recollections of his mother, and a couple of rambling attempts that Jones made to record his life story on tape recordings. These stories displayed his love for outsiders, his connection with animals, and his devotion to communal living as expressed in the biblical description of the lives of the earliest followers of Jesus (Acts 2).

As a boy, Jones moved with his mother to the nearby town of Richmond, Indiana. There he observed racism and the isolation of poverty, in Richmond he also encountered Pentecostal Christianity, a vibrant, exciting and accepting faith that drew the young Jones into the community and values of heartland religion. Jim would never forget the power of miracles combined with a message of unity and acceptance.

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