Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Humanity of Reverend Jim Jones In Five Parts

Christal Cooper

*The images in this specific piece are granted copyright privilege by:  Public Domain, CCSAL, GNU Free Documentation Licenses, Fair Use Under The United States Copyright Law, or given copyright privilege in the form of Public Domain by The Jonestown Institute http://jonestown.sdsu.edu
and the California Historical Society

The Humanity of Rev. Jim Jones In 5 Parts:
Part 1:  Chris Rice Cooper:  My Personal Experience of Reading and Watching Jim Jones
Part 2:  Chris Rice Cooper’s Scripted Interview With Jeff Guinn
Part 3:  Chris Rice Cooper:  The Good Human Jim Jones in Jeff Guinn’s The Road To Jonestown:  Jim Jones And the Peoples Temple
Part 4:  Chris Rice Cooper:  My one  disagreement with Jeff Guinn  
     Part 5:  Julia Scheeres, author of A Thousand Lives, responds

Part 01:  Chris Rice Cooper:  My Personal Experience of Reading and Watching Jim Jones
I was only 9 years old when The Guyana Massacre occurred on that horrible day of November 18, 1978.  I was living in small village in Germany about ten minutes from Spangdahlem Air Force Base where my father was stationed.   This 9 year old was oblivious to the horror and already getting reading to celebrate Thanksgiving.

My first memory of Jim Jones
was at the Green Acres Baptist Church library in Warner Robins, Georgia, where my father retired after twenty years of military service in the Air Force.  They had some book on Jim Jones with a few pages of images in the middle.  I remember his face that of a mountain and hair so black it appeared what I like to describe as Elvis-blue.

My next memory was the CBS three-hour movie with Powers Boothe THE GUYANA MASSACRE on Tuesday April 15, 1980, which I watched in its entirety.  At the time I was 8 days shy of my 11th birthday and already fascinated with the deep, dark, and desperate. 

Powers Booth won the 1980 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Special in September of 1980.  

It took me a few years to learn that the movie was mostly fiction.  In fact I could write an entire blog post on each of the individual fictions along with the individual truths that it would contradict.   For an example in the movie Jim and Marceline never had any children.  In real life Jim Jones and Marceline had seven children:  Agnes, Jim Jr., Lew, Stephan, Stephanie, Suzanne, and Tim Tupper.

I read Tim Reiterman’s book RAVEN and my view of Jim Jones as a monster was reinforced especially when he wrote in the Preface:  Jones was not a good man gone bad, as many believed.  The seeds of madness, violence and cruelty had grown in him since his childhood in Indiana.” 

I read Julia Scheeres’s   A Thousand Lives, which sheds light on the members of The Peoples Temple and made me realize these individuals were not brainwashed or stupid; rather these individuals were compassionate individuals who were willing to sacrifice their own comfort, financial status, for the betterment of humanity.

Through these books, articles, and documentaries I always learned something new but there was always that big blood red fact that kept flashing in my mind – Jim Jones was an evil monster. (right, November 18, 1978.)

Then I read Jeff Guinn’s new book The Road to Jonestown Jim Jones and Peoples Temple . . .https://www.amazon.com/Road-Jonestown-Jones-Peoples-Temple-ebook/dp/B01HMXV0AQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1498697729&sr=8-1&keywords=Jeff+Guinn

Part 02:  Scripted Interview Between Chris Rice Cooper and Jeff Guinn:

Reading your book was a whole new experience for me because I felt for the first time someone was writing about Jim Jones as a human being.  Usually it’s always about Jim Jones as a devil or some kind of monster.   Would it be fair to say that there were two goals in writing the book – presenting Jim Jones as he really was a human being and presenting facts on Jones and Jonestown that previously had not been known?
My only goal in writing The Road to Jonestown was to try and present the whole story. 

                    Jones's first church in Indianapolis.

Previous books focused almost entirely on Jones's later days in California and then, of course, on Guyana. 

The Peoples Temple in Redwood Valley, California 

The Peoples Temple in Los Angeles 

There had to be much more, and finding out required tracking down people who'd never talked before, from the little town where Jones grew up to Guyanese officials who were long-since retired and scattered around that jungle-y country.

Congregation of The Peoples Temple in San Francisco

The entrance to Jonestown in Guyana.

Of all the new information you collected and researched in this book, what was the most surprising?
To my knowledge, there has previously been no real attention paid in print to all the accomplishments of Peoples Temple under the leadership of Jim Jones. I was staggered by the amount of good the organization did, even in those later times when Jones was careening further into megalomania and paranoia.

Tim Reiterman in The Raven Preface” wrote:  “Jones was not a good man gone bad, as many believed.  The seeds of madness, violence and cruelty had grown in him since his childhood in Indiana.”  What is your response to this?
I admire Tim and his book. I do think he's right about "the seeds of madness, violence and cruelty," but there were also seeds of racial compassion and a desire to help those most in need. Jones was a complex man and, though it's convenient to remember him as entirely bad for his whole life, that just isn't true. (This isn't to excuse the terrible things he did.)

Julia Scheeres, author of A Thousand Lives, said in an interview that Jonestown was a total failure for numerous reasons one of which was that the soil was too thin to ever grow self-sustaining crops.  What is your response to this?
I think Julia overstated the problem. The soil was too thin for many crops, but Jonestown settlers still produced impressive harvests. There wasn't enough food because of overcrowding, not because the farm couldn't grow enough to sustain a reasonably sized population. 

Left:  Scheeres doing research in The Guyana Newspaper office.

Why did you not mention the violent tendencies that Jim Jones exhibited as a child?  I know from his A & E Biography a school friend was interviewed on camera stating that Jim Jones shot at him numerous times with a gun but missed?
Many of Jones's childhood tendencies toward violence simply aren't true. I'm interested in presenting facts, not mythology. 

                                                Jones as a junior in Lynn High School.
Can you give me a detailed summary of the complete process of writing THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN from the moment it was first conceived in your brain until final book form?
I wanted to write a book about America in the 1970s. I think the two things most remembered about the decade are Watergate and "Don't drink the Kool-Aid." I felt that there was nothing new I could bring to the subject of Watergate. I did not find any book about Jim Jones/Jonestown that told the story in a way I thought was complete. So that's how I chose the subject. I spent three years doing research, going everywhere Jones went with the exception of Brazil because he basically accomplished nothing there.

Can you describe what the publication (by Simon & Schuster http://www.simonandschuster.com on April 11, 2017) of THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN was like?
This was my 19th book. With every publication, I feel mingled relief (It's over!") and regret ("What more should I have done?").

You were 28 when the Jonestown Massacre occurred on November 18, 1978.  Can you go into great detail about when you learned of what had happened?  How did you learn it?  Where were you?  What was your response?  Etc.
I was 27 and living in Dallas. Like everyone else, I heard the first news bulletins on Sunday and followed all the reports during the next week with growing horror. It was a tragedy that seemed too great to be true.

Before that day in November, had you known about Jim Jones before? And what was your memory or recollection of your knowledge of Jim Jones before that date?
I had never heard of Jim Jones previously.

Can you give me your education history?  Your career history?  I attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated in 1973.   Junior high English teacher, freelance writer, journalist, author.

What made you transition from investigative journalism to writing books?
I began writing books while I still worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. By 2006 I was selling enough copies to give up my day job. I've been a full-time author ever since.

Where were you born and reared?
       I was an Air Force brat and spent most of my childhood in Europe. I was born in White Plains, New York. I've lived in Fort Worth since 1978.

Do you have a wife, children or grandchildren we can mention about in the piece?
       I'm married (to Nora and have been for 44 years). We have two sons (Adam and Grant) and one grandson (Harrison).

What other writing projects are you working on now?
       I'm working on two books right now, one nonfiction and the other fiction. I don't have further details to offer. 

017.  What are your writing habits?  Your writing routine? Where do you do most of your writing?
       My work routine is rock solid. I get up around 5 am, take the dog on a walk, eat some cereal, and go upstairs to my writing room. There's a break for lunch, and I try to finish up around 4 pm.  (Far left above,  Guinn in his writing room)

Can you go into detail about your trip to Guyana and what you saw (that is not included in the book)?
       I think the Guyanese material in the book speaks for itself.

Your contact info?
       So far as your readers are concerned, the best way to contact me is via my page on Facebook.

Part 3:  Chris Rice Cooper’s The Good Human Being Jim Jones
As I read Jeff Guinn’s book I was disappointed and halfway through the book I realized why I was disappointed:  Jeff Guinn’s book is not about Jim Jones the Monster but Jim Jones the human being, the good human being, who exhibited good works on behalf of the marginalized; turned down positions of money and power on behalf of socialism (at least at the beginning); and exhibited affection to his wife and children.

       Suddenly I knew my conflict with reading Guinn’s book was not due to disappointment but the recognition that I had been wrong all these years – Jim Jones wasn’t a monster – he was a human being who actually did good things, but unfortunately, at least in my mind, the evil that he did was so synonymous with his name, Guyana and Jonestown that I didn’t consider the realization that he was a human being – until now.  (Above, Christmas at the Jones household:  standing Suzanne, Marceline; sitting Jones and Jim Jr; up front Stephan and Lew) 

So my goal in this feature is to speak of the good things Jim Jones the human being did throughout the different stages of his life; and to vindicate him of the acts I thought he committed but in reality never actually committed at all.  We all know about the monster, the evil he did – but not much is known about the other side – the good side.

Guinn description of Jim Jones as a child was a description I had never heard: 

Jimmy was such a polite child, grateful for the slight kindness.

Guinn reveals that though his parents Jim Senior and Lynetta were poor Jones never lacked for food or affection – there were numerous Joneses throughout the town who took compassion on the boy.
Left:  Jones's father and grandfather
Right:  Jones's mother Lynetta Jones

The unique thing about preschool Jimmy was that his parents didn’t join in general supervision.  But from his earliest ramblings, Jimmy still had plenty of adults watching over him.  Two sets of aunts and uncles also lived on Grant Street – the aunts mothered him if Lynetta was closed up in her house, which was usually the case.  Most days the Jones aunts provided snacks when Jimmy was hungry and first aid when he skinned an elbow or knee. Jimmy’s first playmates were cousins.  There were dozens of other little Joneses either in Lynn or out on family farms. Age wise, Jimmy fell about in the middle.  He never lacked for company.  And, like all the other kids, he was back in his own home by sundown.

Guinn also reveals that though Jimmy Jones was known to roam around Lynn, Indiana by himself in the 1930s and 1940s it was common for children to run around the area.

There was nothing unusual about this.  From the time they could walk, little boys in town ran all over the place.  It was considered part of the natural cycle of growing up.

Jimmy Jones’s first experience of going to church was with Mrs. Myrtle Kennedy, his spiritual mother.  Mrs. Kennedy and her husband, pastor of the local Nazarene Church, took Jimmy under their wing and soon the young Jimmy was spending evenings with the Kennedys.  This did not make Lynetta Jones happy – her spirituality was not the Trinity God, but two things:  reincarnation and the sincere belief, which she claimed came to her in a revelation from God and her mother, that her son was destined for god-like greatness. (Above, Mrs Kennedy, standing and center, participating in a Nazarene baptism.)

       Jim Jones was never athletically challenged and was what some would call a crybaby – literally crying at the slightest thing done to him.  And he was very intelligent in what Guinn described as “college material.”
       According to Guinn, Jim Jones’s concern for black people and other people who were marginalized was real, sincere and something he wanted to change. (above, Jim Jones's Senior Photo from Richmond High School.)

Even as a child, Jones was genuinely moved by poverty and by race-related suffering. 

       Jim Jones graduated a semester ahead of all the other twelfth graders while holding down a full time night orderly job at the Reid Hospital where he exhibited true compassion with little or no sleep at all.

       Once at work he cheerfully tackled all the toughest chores that other orderlies tired to avoid.  Above all, these included dealing with cantankerous patients, or else seriously ill unfortunates who literally reek of decay and despair.  Jimmy Jones won them over with warm smiles, sweet-natured jokes and always empathy.  Patients of every background and their families felt that this young man understood.  His memory was prodigious – Jimmy remembered every sick person’s name and the names of parents and spouses and children and cousins besides.  Some patients required care of especially personal nature – having diapers changed or being given sponge baths.  Jimmy made these potentially embarrassing moments almost fun, with his lively chatter and positive attitude.

JIM JONES MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE  Jim Jones met very devout Christian and daughter of a minster Marceline while working at Reid Hospital where she was a nurse.   The couple married on June 12, 1949, one month after Jones turned 18.  Soon they would have arguments, not about money or children, but about God. 

But the newlyweds were barely settled in their tiny off-campus apartment when Jim told Marceline that he didn’t believe in her God at all, since a just and loving Lord would never permit so much human misery.  He would later say in Jonestown that “I started devastating (God), I tore that motherfucker to shreds and laid him out to rest . . . (Marceline and I) would fight and she’d cry.  We were washing dishes one time and Marceline said, “I love you, but (don’t you) say anything about the Lord anymore’.  I said, “Fuck the Lord . . .we ended up in some goddamn scrap and she threw a glass at me.

       The one thing the couple agreed wholeheartedly was their love of children and carrying for their needs, especially when the parents refused to do so.  They did this with Marceline’s nine-year-old cousin Ronnie Baldwin and, in 1951, took him into their own home in Indianapolis where Jim Jones was attending University of Indiana’s campus there and working part time.  Marceline worked nights at a children’s hospital.  They loved Ronnie and gave the ten year old his own room and a new bicycle.  The three would regularly go to the movies and take trips to Niagara Falls and Canada.  And both were immensely hurt when Ronnie refused to allow them to adopt him and instead returned to his mother.
       By this time Jim and Marceline had an adopted eleven-year-old girl named Agnes who they doted upon. 

                              Agnes Jones 

They added two Korean orphans four-year-old girl Stephanie and two-year-old Lew with the intention of adopting a Rainbow family, the idea first originating with Marceline.  

Jim and Marceline Jones with from left to right - Lew, Stephan, Jim Jr. and standing Suzanne.  Stephan and Jim Jr would escape The Guyana Massacre due to participating in a basketball game in Jonestown.  Suzanne was estranged from her parents and spoke out against Rev Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple.  She died in 2006 due to colon cancer.                   

Marceline learned she was pregnant, and both she and Jim were thrilled, but in May of 1959 that joy turned to sorrow when Stephanie Jones was killed in a car crash by a drunk driver.  Jim Jones led a group of children to a zoo trip in Cincinnati.  On the way back, Stephanie Jones carpooled with another congregant and their vehicle was hit head on by a drunk driver.

Jim Jones spent the terrible night identifying his daughter’s body and arranging for her remains to be transported back to Indianapolis.  He dreaded breaking the news to Marceline.  When he arrived home at dawn, he woke his wife and gently  explained that Stephanie had died in a car crash. 
It was still storming when Stephanie was laid to rest.  The hole dug for her coffin was half full of water.  Jones sobbed as Stephanie was lowered into the muck.  He would recall later “Oh, Shit it was cruel, cruel.”  (above, the Earlham Cemetery where Stephanie Jones is buried)

  After Stephan was born in June of 1959, Jim and Marceline learned Stephanie had a six-year-old sister (named Oboki) in a Korean orphanage.  They officially adopted her and renamed her Suzanne.
       In 1961 they became the first white parents to adopt a black infant and named the child James Warren Jones Jr. (below)

       Jones was never physically or sexually abusive to his wife and his children.  Though he mentally abused his wife Marceline there were numerous times he expressed concern and affection for her.  He applied for a pastoral position in Hawaii because he and Marceline loved the island; and, in 1962, when he took Marceline to Brazil, one of the places he was considering as the Peoples Temple home base, he sensed her hesitancy, and to make her feel better, embraced her and together they sang “I’ll be loving you always.”
       While in Brazil, one of numerous places he visited to find a safe haven for him and the Peoples Temple from nuclear holocaust, Jones exhibited behavior that I found to be surprising since he had a history of hurting animals:

       When someone gave the Joneses a live duck for their evening meal Jones couldn’t bear to kill it and insisted that they keep the fowl as a pet.

       Marceline and Jones and their children also welcomed teenager Bonnie Malmin, daughter of an evangelist who lived in Brazil, into their home where Jim Jones advised her on practicing safe sex, including giving her a condom to carry in her purse when she went out with her boyfriend, and teaching her moves on self defense.
  Even though the children of the Peoples Temple had certain rules – Jones exempted his own children and instead took them on two-week vacations to Hawaii, Germany, and every World’s Fair.  The Jones children also had a variety of pets, allowed to go to the movie theater, wear higher quality clothes, and even had their own housekeeper and maid. (far left, Jim Jones and Stephan Jones)

“We lived in a bubble, and it was usually good,” Jim Jones Jr. Remembers.

               Jim Jones Jr and Jeff Guinn at Guinn's book signing/reading.

Guinn also reveals the relentless work and arduous hours the Rev Jim Jones labored,  particularly with his first church in Indianapolis Community Unity. Sometimes the work days were so long that Jones did not get any sleep; numerous speaking engagements; meetings with local officials; picketing on behalf of the marginalized; feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; providing medical care to the sick; preaching sermons which at times could be hours long; counseling individual members; conducting church meetings; participating in grass-root movements to integrate black businesses into white businesses, black churches into white churches, black schools in to white schools – and by the end of the year Indianapolis, largely due to Jones, was almost completely integrated and he did all of this on a meager salary.   (up left - Jim Jones in 1956  holding a family photograph).

Marceline’s salary from her full-time job barely covered essentials for Jones’s immediate family. So Jones worked, to selling spider monkeys door-to-door for $29 each.  Beyond that, he held other part-time jobs, anything to bring in a few extra dollars for the Community Unity cause.  He slept when he could.

Another thing I learned in Guinn’s book is that Jones was not always so stern and arduous in his sermons, especially when the congregation consisted of children.

            Rev Jim Jones delivering a sermon at Red Wood Valley Peoples Temple.

Sometimes during services, Jones would stop preaching and tell the kids to get up and stretch.  Once, he interrupted his own Easter service to ask the youngsters what song they wanted to sing next.  When they screamed “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” that’s what the whole congregation sang, Jones’s pleasant voice booming out loudest of all.   

              Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple youth at Red Valley

Guinn also reveals that many thought of Jones as a man who preached like a black man but got things done like a white man who was available to his congregation and those who needed him 24/7: all they had to do was come to the Jones’s home and they were welcome.

             The two homes the Joneses lived in during their years in Indianapolis.  Photographs by Ryan Hamlet. 

When The Peoples Temple moved to Ukiah, California in July of 1965 even then Jim Jones and his attentiveness to each member of his flock was well noted.

Jones himself was a constant, positive presence in every member’s life.  He had a remarkable memory for names – everyone was addressed in some personal way, and made to feel special.  If sometimes he rallied a little too long or too ferociously at meetings, as members were taught to call services, Jones was kindness itself in individual conversations.  He addressed most women as “darling”, and younger men as “son.”  There was no doubt he took his leadership role seriously.  Jones made a point of telling everyone that he hardly slept.  Followers were encouraged to call him in the middle of the night, if necessary, and whenever anyone did Jim always seemed to be up and about.

Jim Jones and Sex
Jones did not have his first sexual transgression until he lived in Brazil in 1962 where he claimed that he had sex with a government official’s wife in exchange for a $5000 donation to an orphanage.  Jim Jones, with his wife Marceline’s blessing, considered this a sacrifice he needed to make on behalf of the People Temple. 

It wasn’t until the summer of 1969 just after their twentieth wedding anniversary that Jim Jones had his first sexual affair with Carolyn Moore Layton (above in 1977), who became one of his two mistresses.  By this time Marceline’s severe back problems catapulted and her back gave completely out and she could no longer provide her husband with his sexual needs.   Marceline accepted this affair, though begrudgingly, but soon Jim Jones’s sexual transgressions included another mistress – Maria Katsaris (below in 1978) – and then it included whomever he chose – and in some cases it was other men.  Guinn claims in his book that Jim Jones was bi-sexual and held the belief that all human beings were homosexual at heart.  He also maintained this belief that all women of all ages were attracted to him.


Jones’s sexual activities were at such “frantic proportions” he had to have his “fuck schedule” a notebook and calendar of all of his sexual appointments kept by Peoples Temple Member Patty Cartmell (below).  

According to Guinn the only instance Jones resorted to rape was with Debbie Layton (http://www.deborahlayton.net), which she recounted in her memoir Seductive Poison. (below)

According to Guinn, there was only once incident of statutory rape involving a fourteen-year-old girl.   When the family found out they left the Peoples Temple.

Part 04:  Chris Rice Cooper:  The One Disagreement I Have with Jeff Guinn
I remember telling my husband that I was disappointed because Guinn did not mention Jim Jones's violent tendencies he exhibited as a child, particularly the time he shot at childhood friend Don Foreman. (far left as a junior at Lynn High School). 

By Jim Jones own account, according to Tim Reiterman in Raven, he admitted to exhibiting homicidal tendencies by the time he was in the third grade in this quote that he stated only one year before The Guyana Massacre:  

“I was ready to kill by the end of the third grade.  I mean I was so fucking aggressive and hostile, I was ready to kill.  Nobody give me any love, any understanding.  In those days a parent was supposed to go with a child to school functions. . . There was some kind of school performance and everybody’s fucking parent was there but mine.  I’m standing there.  Alone.  Always was alone.”

                       1977, Jones receiving the Martin Luther King Jr Award for his humanitarian efforts. attributed to Nancy Wong 1977.

By the age of ten he was killing some animals that he would use as props for funeral sermons; and with a small knife he would cut the skin of animals in order to collect its blood and observe it under the microscope his parents got him for Christmas. 

           Jones is in the back row, fifth from right             

Tim Reiterman tells of the incidences of violence that occurred between Jim Jones and childhood friend Don Foreman in his book Raven. 

             Center middle:  Jones in his 5th grade class.

The first incident occurred when both boys were in junior high.  Jim Jones grabbed the BB gun that his father gave him and shot Don in the midsection.
A few months later Don loaned Jim a 22-caliber rifle and armed himself with a .410 gauge shotgun to go rabbit hunting.  Don noticed that Jim kept the rifle aimed at his legs and asked him to be careful.

“I’ve been thinking about you demanding that you stop walking,” said Jim.
“What do you mean?”
“If you take one more step, I’ll shoot you.”
With that, the .22 discharged and a bullet tore through the tow of one of Don’s shoes, narrowly missing his foot.

In their junior year of high school Jones invited Don for lunch at his home; As dusk approached Don told Jim he had to head home to do chores and walked to the front door out into the front porch, and walked the walkway toward the sidewalk and then turned and glanced back at Jim, who had his fingers clasped around the plastic handle of his father’s big black pistol.

             Standing and in back row:  Jones is standing in the far left and Don Foreman is standing in the far right in their junior Lynn High School photo.

“Just stop, or I’ll shoot ya,” said Jim.
“Jim, I’m going home.”  Suddenly Don was worried.  He pivoted ninety degrees and headed down the tree-lined sidewalk. Some fifty feet behind him, on the porch, Jim leveled the pistol in his direction.  Almost instantaneously an explosion went off and a three-inch chunk of bark went flying from a tree Don had just passed.  A horrible ear- ringing noise hit him like a blast of icy wind and set his legs in motion.
He lit out for the cover of a row of shrubs along the driveway. When he was out of sight, he peered back through the greenery.  Jim was staring from the porch, the gun dangling at his side.”

Don Foreman’s account of some of the shootings are included in the Biography Channel’s biography Jim Jones: Journey Into Madness and in greater detail in Tim Reiterman’s biography on Jim Jones Raven.
       I sent Julia Scheeres the link to this blog post and she had issue with Jeff Guinn’s statement to my question I asked him in the scripted interview, Part 2 section (quoted below in blue):

Julia Scheeres, author of A Thousand Lives, said in an interview that Jonestown was a total failure for numerous reasons one of which was that the soil was too thin to ever grow self-sustaining crops.  What is your response to this?
I think Julia overstated the problem. The soil was too thin for many crops, but Jonestown settlers still produced impressive harvests. There wasn't enough food because of overcrowding, not because the farm couldn't grow enough to sustain a reasonably sized population. 

Scheeres  (right conducting an interview in Jonestown 2011) responded to Guinn’s response to my question  via Facebook messaging:  “I got my information about the farm's problems with thin soil from the farm manager himself, Jim Bogue (in below photo); it's not an "overstatement.’”

In fact, Scheeres, in A Thousand Lives, goes into great detail about the soil on pages 67 and 68:

The greatest challenge for Jim Bogue, who was quickly named farm manager was the soil.  The rain forest dirt surprised him; it was completely different than the abundant, soft loam in California.  The topsoil was acidic and only a few inches thick; underneath lay impenetrable red clay.  If he scooped up a handful in his fist, squeezed it and let it dry, it turned into a rock-hard ball.  The United Nations classified the jungle soil as “non-productive.”
 Nevertheless, he threw himself at the challenge. He spent all day, every day, learning the rhythms of tropical agriculture from the natives, resorting to hand gestures when their broken English failed.  The Amerindians used slash-and-burn agriculture. The ash from the burned vegetation added another layer of nutrients to the thin soil, but the  method forced them to move their crop locations every few years as they depleted nutrients and weeds outpaced the harvest.  Bogue hoped that by sweetening the soil with enough crushed seashell and wood ash, and by staying on top of the weeds he could beat the odds and keep the Temple farm operating permanently.
The first crop he planted was a hundred acres of corn.  Each of his crew of barefoot natives, including men, women, kids, and seniors, carried a stick and would poke a hole in the ground, drop in a few kernels, then cover them with a swipe of the foot before walking a few paces and poking another hole.  It took seventy-five workers several weeks to plant the field
  But as soon as the corn started silking, brown moths appeared.  They fluttered about the emerald leaves like flecks of mud, each female depositing thousands of eggs on the green stigmas.  When the larva hatched, they followed the silk into the ear, where they burrowed into the tender kernels.  Pesticides couldn’t penetrate the cornhusks, so the Guyanese crew walked the field picking off the worms by hand.  They’d quickly fill two-gallon buckets with the writing pests. Bogue lost half the crop, and learned a valuable lesson:  The jungle, with its constant warmth and humidity, was the perfect petri dish for anything that swarmed, slithered, infested, or infected.
There were other missteps.  The climate veered between droughts and downpours.  During the wet season, monsoonlike rains washed away precious topsoil and seedlings, something the pioneer learned to counteract by plowing along the contour of the hills instead of up and down them and by protecting tender sprouts in a covered plant nursery.  During the dry season, they formed bucket brigades to transport water from nearby creeks.
At first, they planted the same food they were used to eating: temperate crops such as carrots, celery, and asparagus.  But these never grew longer than a man’s pinkie; the soil chemistry simply wasn’t right.  They started over with local greens: starchy tubers such as eddoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava, legumes such as pigeon peas and cutlass beans, as well as bananas, pineapple, and citrus fruits.  They learned to adapt and experiment, forever preoccupied with their urgent task: finding a way to feed the hundreds of Temple members who would join them in the promised land.  The mission’s success depended on their efforts.  They planted thousands of orange trees, and these were just starting to bear fruit when the farm came to its violent end, four years later.



  1. This piece is entirely enlightening and compelling. There are ALWAYS disparate sides to ANY story, and you've here that Jim Jones' story is no different. I found it utterly fascinating and informative. I know that anyone reading it will be surprised and educated regarding a man seen largely as among the greatest monsters of this time, or any time. Thank you, Chris! Happy to follow the blog! --JLS

    1. Dear John.

      thank you for your comments and taking the time to read. It's hard to admit that someone so evil can be human just like you and me. It was not a comfortable piece to write.

      Do you have your own blog or web page that I can connect to?