Edith Roller Journals

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Edith Roller at Christmas in Redwood Valley circa 1974.

When the Jonestown community died on 18 November 1978, one of the silenced voices was that of Edith Roller, a 63-year-old former college professor who had joined Peoples Temple more than three years before. Professor Roller kept an extensive and detailed journal, running several thousand pages in total, during her Temple years. She went to Guyana in January 1978. Her day-to-day notations of life in Jonestown inform or corroborate much of the information located in the Jonestown Research links.

The Roller journals have been found at two locations – in Temple documents collected by the FBI and released to this website through the Freedom of Information Act; and in the Peoples Temple Collection at the California Historical Society – but there are several months that are still missing.

27 Months of Journals Found, 1975-1978

Edith’s entries are divided into monthly files, with active buttons (table below) taking you to each month’s transcribed journal. For most months, notes were handwritten; for some months, notes were partly typed, partly handwritten. Transcriptions follow the wording and format of her notes. Only six months were in Edith’s final revised-typed version — only these are in her final wording; these had longer paragraphs, corrected names and added details.

Due to poor photo copying of the first FBI FOIA .pdf files, about 25% of the pdfs were partially to totally unreadable. With newly re-copied FOIA .pdf files, only 5% of the pdfs have unreadable sections. ALL transcriptions have been updated to include the many entries that are now readable. Some portions still unreadable are indicated by underlines and/or notes. Edith’s notations to herself are also included.

All found journals are posted here in searchable text. If more months are found they will be added.

We thank Don Beck and Michael Bellefountaine for their innumerable hours of work in compiling, transcribing, and analyzing these journals. We welcome feedback, corrections, questions and observations from all visitors. Please write to us at remoore@mail.sdsu.edu with your comments.

1. Roller Journals.
Key: Month -transcribed & online; Month -not yet found: § -typed final; † – both typed final & notes; ‡ -notes: part typed & part written
1975:
Jul75 § Aug75 § Sep75 § Oct75 Nov75 Dec75
1976:
Jan76 Feb76 § Mar76 Apr76 May76 Jun76
Jul76 Aug76 Sep76 Oct76 Nov76 Dec76
1977:
Jan77 Feb77 Mar77 Apr77 May77 Jun77
Jul77 Aug77 Sep77 Oct77 Nov77 Dec77
1978:
Jan78 Feb78 Mar78 Apr78 May78 Jun78
Jul78 Aug78 Sep78 Oct78 Nov78
2. Edith reports missing notes (September 1978)
It is not known if Edith wrote more journals after August 1978. The only reference to journals after August 1978, is in a September letter Edith wrote Jim regarding journal files/notes missing from her locker.

• Letter from Edith Roller to Jim dated September 10, 1978

• Original pdf file of Edith’s Letter

3. Aids for Transcribing/Organizing the Journals (pdf files)
spacer Organizational Chart
Names & Nicknames / Edith’s Residences and Roommates
Areas of Work and Places
Places, Activities & Structure
Roller’s Abbreviations in Notes (Handwritten and Typed Notes Pages)
Jonestown Map
• Calendars: 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978

4. Indexes for Searching the Journals (Also: 1975-77 Events Summary chart below)

5. Source Index: to the the FBI CDs for 1975 to 1978 Roller Journals

6. Articles from transcribing the Roller Journals
• Daily Life of Peoples Temple Revealed in Journal by Michael Bellefountaine (2004)
• Roller Journals Reveal Detailed, Dispassionate Look at Temple, by Michael Bellefountaine (2005)
• Foreword to Edith Rollers 1978 Journals,” by Don Beck (2005)

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Events Summary from Monthly Journals 1975-77

July 1975 (July 16-31) 27 pages (from typed journal)

– Returned from Chicago – Jim says very receptive to Socialism there.

– Edith’s sister Dorothy turned away in Chicago after long discourse

– Talk of leaving RV-Ukiah, “atmosphere rural life getting worse”

– Possible campaign in Hawaii: arranged for $300

– Chris Lewis mentioned [ie back in states]

– Trial in Sonoma-Santa Rosa whites who attacked Joe Wilson & Ronnie James

– Kids “gang” in Temple

– Boxing as punishment

– Jim takes whacks

– Joanne Little trial in news

– Senate Bill 1 powers discussed

– Tim Stoen visits at night twice

– PT voted into the Cyuanese Council of Churches

August 1975 (Aug 1-31) 44 pages (from typed journal)

– Edith borrows $300 at 19% from B of A for trip

– Larry Schacht admitted to UC Irvine Med school

– Edith has fall and cut at Buttonwillow

– Gene Chaikin back from Guyana

– Aug 2 canceling trip to PL and maybe Hawaii too

– Chris Lewis speaks at service

– Aug 6 facing plot by CIA and Kinsolving. Postpone trips

– Deanna Mertle ruptured appendix

– Goodlett offered to take Jim to Socialist countries

– Danny Kutulas out of Temple and back

– Jim speaks at Muslim Temple in SF

– Mexico trip to replace Hawaii trip

– “Joe Hill” film shown in service

– SF Police and Firemen strike

– Aug 24 Jim w/part of congregation went to Nation of Islam mosque meeting SF

– Mexico trip cancelled

– Edith had vacation from work as trip cancelled—went to Chinese exhibit in SF

– Congregation listens to Paul Robeson story on KQED TV

– Tim Stoen [supposedly] shot but ok. Shot in Ukiah near Rexall in car

– Temple plans to buy hotel in SF

– Discussed adoption Agnes, loss of Suzanne’s sister and getting Suzanne

– Disneyland trip emerges- planned for Labor Day (Sept 1)

September 1975 (Sep 1-15) 23 pages (from typed journal)

– Sept 1 Disneyland

– Sept 5 Visit to Lorraine & Ryn (friend of Edith at SFSU)

– Sept 7 Sandy Ingram back from p.l. with Helen Swinney

– 11 Children from PT to go to Drew College Prep School in SF

February 1976 (Feb1-15) 26 pages (from typed journal)

– Feb 1 Edith discusses going communal

– Discussions with Dorothy (co worker Bechtol) re religion, etc.

– Edith pamphleting

– Mention of Marie Lawrence in article in SF Examiner (re PT support)

– Showing of “Pawnbroker” movie in meeting.

– Neva Sly denounced

– Deputy Mayor of LA connected to feeling gentitalia of police officer

March 1976 (Mar1-31) 46 pages (from handwritten notes)

– Edith notarized doc for her sisters; Edith gets raise, names salary $830/mo

– No California snow…

– Edith connections at SF State

– Bible errors

– Herb Caen article

– JJ Mike Prokes back from JT w/video

– Political figures SF at PT service Gain, Willie Brown, Harvey Milk,…

– Angela Davis asks support in N Carolina…

– Bobby Stroud, conscientious objector discharge from Army

– Preparing for negative woman reporter expected April 4, 1976

April 1976 (Apr 1-30) 49 pages (from handwritten & typed notes)

– Poor turnout for Dennis Banks fund raising

– Muslims visit PT service & PT visits Muslim service, April 4 & 11 Sunday

– PT writes letters fro Cecil Williams re Playboy mockery of him

– Work with KGO-TV staff, rehab of drug addicts

– Muni strike

May 1976 (May1-31) 63 pages (from handwritten & typed notes)

– Letters/phone call to sisters, arrange meeting

– Trip to Chicago: 1 bus left May 2; 1 service May 4 with Nation of Islam

– Muslims visit PT for SF and LA services

– PT guests at Nation of Islam Jubilee May 23, LA

– Muni Strike continues

– Visitors courting PT for June Calif vote

– Tim Stoen finishes part-time, begins full-time in SF DA office, voter fraud

– Edith buys portable electric typewriter

– Sign up for June Cross country trip– St Louis, NY, Philadelphia, Chicago etc

– First contact w/ Charles Garry

– Chris Lewis said to be on a “mission.”

– BART opened May 27 

June 1976 (Jun 1-30) 45 pages (from handwritten notes)

– Working trip cross country: June 13 into July includes Wash DC.

– Further planning of Edith reunion with sisters to August.

– Some kids to p.l. incuding Jimbo Jones (Agnes Jones son)

– Talk of raising money for a plane

– Teri Buford back from p.l. with pics

July 1976 (Jul 1-31) 52 pages (from handwritten and typed notes)

– Much description of Edith’s work at Bechtel

– Arranging and getting permission for reunion with sisters in Aug 15-21

– Jack Arnold Beam gone but not unfriendly to PT; says life tough out of PT

– Kathleen Cleaver, Eldridge’s wife, in service, Jul 3. Trial scheduled Jul 23

– Jim visits Eldridge Cleaver in jail July 13.

– July 4 in RV; list of places left in RV, only money making

– LA Temple for sale

– Tommy Moore returns to Vicki Moore

– July 18 Dr. John Moore at SF PT service

– Dennis Banks mentioned

– Magazine article mentioned July 24, negative to PT, Mayor Bradly, others LA.

– Letter from Don Beck in JT read in service

August 1976 (Aug 1-31) 51 pages (from handwritten and typed notes)

– Mother LeTourneau, and several from Peace Mission put out of PT.

– Cutting back buses to LA; call for more to move to SF

– Training Marquita at Bechtel; Dor (her boss) negative towards Edith

– Family reunion for Edith & Sisters in Denver, CO: Aug 15-25.

– Revealed Liz Forman has left PT

– Don Beck returns from p.l.

Sept 1976 (Sept 1-30) 54 pages (from handwritten and typed notes)

– Edith getting shots for Guyana; has her passport.

– Slides of Guyana from Gene Chaikin

– Films shown in Friday night and Wednesday night services sometimes.

– Liz Forman gone: Edith speaks to various this month to get more info on it.

– Grace Stoen had been in the p.l.

– Preparing for Muslim Jubilee trip cross country (Oct 4-10 meetings)

– Labor Day (Sept 6) Edith with Lor de la Fuente and company.

– Met Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver

– Fresno Bee Four (Sept 6 -12): Temple demonstration to support

– Democratic Campaign Rally

– Edith previews her communal apartment with Rheaviana

– Problems with children in SF, Jim calls for tighter more activities for child.

– Sept 25 Testimonial Dinner for JJ at PT, many celebrity guests

Oct 1976 (Oct 1-31) 49 pages (from handwritten notes)

– Oct. 2 Sat. Edith goes communal, moves into 1029 Geary apartments

– Back from trip East to Muslims, results discussed

– PT attends Democratic Rally several times; Meets Jimmy & Rosalyn Carter

– Only Vitamin C supplied to communes

– Problems at work continue: discussed and tried to resolve them

– Opportunity school: PT students probs but best curriculum for PT, PT donate $

– Crash nr Barbados Cubana Flight 455, Oct 6. CIA involved: united soc causes

– Needs of p.l.: equipment, freighgter, small plane, Toyota Rovers.

– Something large thrown into Jim’s bus window traveling north on 5

– Bob Houston was one who went out in Sept, crushed between trains.

– John Gardener, Ronnie Dennis, Garnet Johnson, Nawab Lawrence, Dov Lundquist: problem kids sent to p.l. with Tom Kice whose building skills needed.

– In general discipline being tightened, call to SF, go communal, be ready to go.

– Supreme Court decision wrong to target getting more minorities in schools

– Edith gets Bell’s palsy but little reference to it

– Jim accepts mayor’s appointment to Housing Commission

– Announced Jon Stoen in p.l. permanently

– Jim meets Ralph Nader

November 1976 (Nov 1-30) 66 pages (from handwritten notes)

– Many pages unreadable because of bad copying…

– Nov 2 Presidential, etc election: Sen Hayacawa and Pres Carter

– Nov 12 Soc Labor Party: So African Protest w/Cecil Williams & Willie Brown

– Throughout: children brought up for discipline: school, newspapering, beh.

– Tighten-up communes: much confront behaviors; behavioral problems sent out

– Blacktop behind church put in

– Temple Broadcasts mentioned

– Eunice Blackwell-Wright from Mississippi spoke at church

– Penny Kerns chases AF man listening in to service, followed to Sacto & Miss.

– Jimmy Gill transsexual, JJ support alternatives

– PT supports anti-aparteid in So Africa - Bill Anderson fr/So Africa speaks

– PT supports Chileans

– Linda Mertle leaves, back with parents

December 1976 (Dec1-31) 57 pages (from handwritten notes)

– Throughout month, much confrontation in meetings as discipline is tightened

– Uncommitted fringe members causing problems, sent on their way

– Linda Mertle declared arch enemy

– Testing members on socialism

– Lt Gov Mervin Dymally visits JT

– Gyanese Government Dinner honoring JJ in Georgetown

– Wilmington 10; Ben Chavez; Angela Davis’ Alliance Agnst Racism & Polit Rep

– Hongisto jailed for refusing to evict International Hotel

– Laura Allende sister of Pres Allende of Chile speaks to Temple

– Eva Pugh returns to SF to work on finances

January 1977 (Jan 1-31) 59 pages (from handwritten notes)

–Jan 2 Chilean visitors—Isobel Allende (daughter)

–Jan 15 MLK Memorial service at PT, State, city Officials, religious leaders

–Jan 15+ PT marches at International Hotel

–Jan 16 Glide Memorial, Jim Jones awarded 4th Annual MLK Award

–Jan 16-28 Trip to Houston. Washington

–Edith turns in copyJournal notes to Tim Stoen, told not to take notes publicly

–Revamp Communal kitchen/procurement/ etc.

–Distribution of Peoples Forum

–Jan 23- PT watches “Roots” 6 part miniseries

August 1977 (Aug 13-31) 13 pages (OCR – denser text)

–(Jim gone, not much mention of people leaving, though many left in Aug)

–Marcy handling services—alternating SF & LA, busses still traveling

–Casper Weinberger working at Bechtel

–Phone call from Sister Dorothy re Newsweek article

–Edith working with Phyllis Chaikin on Affidavits of healing

–Communes scaling down; consolidating apt rentals

September 1977 (Sept 1-30) 24 pages (OCR – denser text)

–Marcy handling services—alternating SF & LA, busses still traveling

–Communes scaling down; consolidating apt rentals

–Being ready to leave—short notice.

–Gather more books, materials for Guyana.

–Lt Gov Dymally attends PT SF 18 Sept

–Attend Russian Delegation reception at American-Russian Institute22 Sept

–Jean Brown returns from visit to Guyana mission

October 1977 (Oct 1-31) 23 pages (OCR – denser text)

–Marcy handling services—alternating SF & LA, busses seem not to be going

–Communes scaling down; consolidating apt rentals

–Oct 16 800 said to be at JT

–Oct 23 Sandy Bradshaw returned from JT visit. 

–Jim tape of radio broadcast about Guyana mission for broadcast So. America.

–Jim as “Bishop Jones”

–Oct 29 Temple w/Delancy St demonstrate against Prince Charles (Irish vs Brits)

November 1977 (Nov 1-30) 35 pages (from handwritten notes)

–Marcy handling services—alternating SF & LA, LA comes north only

–Communes scaling down; consolidating apt rentals

–More notes re work at Bechtel…

–Edith asks about resigning Bechtel, end of year go on SS, approved.

–Marcy back from Guyana [not clear when she went down]

–Nov 6 Guests- Charles Garry, Mary Warner (Human Rights Commission)

–Letters to Rep Don Clausen, Reps John & Philip Burton, Sen Alan Cranston.

–Nov 9 Voting in SF

–Films from Jonestown by Prokes

–Nov 16 8am to 6pm Marching in protest around Examiner bldg

–Jim sends statement to congregation re: John Victor as his child.

–Nov 19 Tim Stoen comes out supporting Grace Stoen Examiner article

–Nov 24 Thanksgiving. Group from Temple at Dennis Banks reception Oakland

–Nov 29 PT Grp at American Trade Union mtg Russian Trade Union delegation

December 1977 (Dec1-31) 28 pages (from handwritten notes)

– Lisa Layton and Debbie Layton preparing to go to Guyana

– Terry Buford comes back from Guyana to do Debbie’s work in SF

– Dennis Banks Fund Raising Concert at Temple

– Edith’s 2 sisters (Dor & Eddie) visit for 10 days around Xmas.

– Edith retired from Bechtel at end of Dec.

– Edith preparing to go to Guyana

– Chris Lewis shot in Hunters Point

– KGO Ron Owens Interview on radio of Marcy, Jean B, Jim McElvane

Last modified on January 31st, 2014.