A Brief History: Hiatus and Exodus

The frantic pace of Peoples Temple and its ministries in Indianapolis had its effect on Jones. His new position as the director of the Indianapolis Human Rights Commission and his growing family of adopted children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds made Jones’ life a constant flurry of activity. In late 1961 he was hospitalized for a week and in early 1962 he took a leave of absence and moved his family to Brazil. This time of Jones’ life lacks substantial documentation – mentions in some sermons, memories recorded later during FBI interviews with some of his earliest followers, and a few individuals who remembered meeting Jones while in South America.

Upon his return to Peoples Temple and Indianapolis in late 1963, Jones immediately began planning for a congregational move to northern California. Partially to avoid increasing attacks on his more radical notions of racial and economic equality and partially due to Jones’ constant underlying fears of a coming nuclear war, during the summer of 1965 Jones moved with his family and about 85 members of Peoples Temple to live in the Redwood Valley of northern California around the small town of Ukiah.

The small racially mixed group of midwesterners made quite a stir in the small, mostly white town that was also the county seat. Over the next few years, Peoples Temple would purchase homes, build a church on the outskirts of the town, start businesses and become more engaged in the local political scene. But for Jones, who had his ministry coming-of-age in the urban political and racial battles in Indianapolis, the short trip to San Francisco was a regular draw of his attention. By 1968, Jones was taking buses of Peoples Temple members to San Francisco to participate in joint worship services, especially with mostly black congregation, By 1969, Peoples Temple was holding services in a school in the impoverished and racially mixed Fillmore neighborhood.

Expansion of Peoples Temple