I am the grandson of Jack Barron. I was young at the time of Jonestown – too young to have any real memories myself – but I have heard a few stories about him.
My grandfather went to Jonestown in July 1974, one of the earliest people to go, to help build the community. From there, he wrote my father on occasion about how great life was down there. However, the early letters were mostly incomprehensible ramblings and never inquired about the real family he had left behind. His last letter was the first time he talked about the family and mentioned that his granddaughter Sara looked like her Aunt Grace. He never could relate anything in his previous letters. Also in his final letter, he warned my dad how a global war was going to break out soon, so he needed to send my sister Kelly and me – only 2 and 3 years old then – down there to be safe. I genuinely believe my grandfather cared and had a kind heart, but it showed how manipulated he was in his thinking and the state of his mind.
How Jack got involved with the church
This section contributed by my mother (Jack’s daughter-in-law), Karen Saul
Jack only went inside that church to see what was really going on, and he was never the same after that. They kept people there all night in meetings. The sleep deprivation was how they manipulated them and controlled them. He was told that he either let three women live in the house with him and Freeda (his wife), or he had to leave her… and he chose to leave his wife. He gave up his job and worked at the church endless hours. He gave up his family and had nothing to do with any of us after that. He didn’t even want to see our family. When we tried to communicate with him, he couldn’t talk or comprehend anything. It was as if he was drugged and programmed to say certain things over and over again. It made us very upset and nervous to be around him. We knew we had lost him at that point. Freeda and Dennis (his oldest son) and his family lived a very short distance from him and they were never able to see him. Freeda spoke with an attorney whose wife had also joined the church, and he was also helpless to get her away from them. It ruined family after family in the area.
It was just so sad to see a family man like Jack get so caught up in the cult that he left his own family.
Other Stories from Ukiah
Mr. Brier was a really friendly shop owner whom everyone knew, but he didn’t support Jim Jones. Jones wanted to buy the strip mall where Mr. Brier’s shop was but it wasn’t for sale. So Jones started horrible rumors, thinking that would convince Mr. Brier to sell. The rumors included claims that Mr. Brier was a child molester. The humiliation caused him to lose his shop and commit suicide shortly after.
My dad also had an experience with Jim Jones while still in Ukiah/Redwood Valley. He went to talk to Jones to find out why my grandfather had emptied his bank accounts and left my grandmother. He got about 20 feet from Jones and then was taken outside and beaten by a few of the church guards.
I think this shows some of the ways that cults work to intimidate people and suppress any negative criticism.
Jack’s brother Bill is still doing well and living in Hampden, Maine. The rest of that generation of Ukiah-based Barrons, as well as Jack’s wife (my Grandma) Freeda Barron, have all passed on. Jack had two sons: Gary, my dad; and Dennis. Both men passed on early due to heart disease.