Sometime in 1973 – the exact date is unknown, in that it does not appear on this document – Peoples Temple began making plans in earnest to emigrate from the United States to establish what was known in the beginning as “Freedomland” or “The Promised Land.” Labeled as “Exodus,” this is the first known document to lay out the tasks that needed to be accomplished to effectuate this move, ranging from selling assets in the U.S. to raise the necessary money (and because the Temple wouldn’t need them anymore), to securing passports and inoculations for its members, to making travel arrangements.
The document includes an almost brutally-short summary of the commitment each member would need to make to join in the migration: “… have a plan and agenda arranged to get passports and inoculations. Sell or deliver items of personal property. Give up jobs. Give notice on leases. Gather up funds, acquire personal property listed items.”
The document is 12 handwritten pages, with sufficient detail and organization to suggest that Temple leaders had been making realistic plans for some time. What is not realistic is the timeline. Focusing on the Caribbean as the likely place for the new settlement, the document calls for the selection of “specific islands” by September 27, 1973, with all arrangements made – preparing the new home, choosing and organizing the members who would go – and the departure made slightly over three months later, on January 1, 1974.
The reality was different, beginning with the discarding of a Caribbean island as the landing spot. Nevertheless, it is also true that within a year, the Temple had chosen Guyana instead, negotiations for the land in the Northwest District had successfully concluded, and the first acreage for what would become Jonestown had already been cleared.
The document is unsigned, but the handwriting is similar to that of Eugene Chaikin, a Temple member who served as one of its attorneys and who was in Georgetown for many of the Temple’s early months in the country.