What happened to Peoples Temple after 18 November 1978?

Although Peoples Temple was a member in good standing of the Disciples of Christ denomination (and the largest congregational giver in 1978), it collapsed as a congregation when the majority of its active members died on 18 November 1978.

Following the deaths, some of its surviving members were interviewed by local police officials and the FBI, and then began constructing new lives outside the church. A few members of the Temple remained in Guyana through May 1979 to wrap up the movement’s affairs, then returned to anonymity within the U.S.

One thing almost all surviving members faced upon their return was the great stigma attached to being part of Peoples Temple. Those who returned from Guyana to the United States faced prejudice, harassment, and loss of jobs; they were called murderers and baby-killers.

The Temple declared bankruptcy at the end of 1978, and its assets went into receivership. A San Francisco court appointed attorney Robert Fabian as Receiver to identify and amass what monies and properties he could locate, and then apportioned those assets to various claimants, which included the U.S. government, former Temple members, and bill collectors.

The Temple’s papers – those collected by the Receiver, those initially maintained by Temple attorneys, and subsequent donations from former Temple members and Jonestown scholars – are housed in the California Historical Society in San Francisco. A collection of government documents relating to the Temple exists in Special Collections in the Love Library at San Diego State University in San Diego, California. Several federal government agencies – including the FBI, the State Department, and the Air Force – have substantive collections of documents related to Peoples Temple. These may be obtained from those agencies under the Freedom of Information Act or through this website.

Last modified on December 25th, 2015.
Skip to main content