Peoples Temple began in the 1950s in Indianapolis, Indiana under the leadership of Jim Jones. Jones and his followers engaged in numerous activities to help the poor. In addition, they made racial integration central to their work and mission. The church affiliated with the Disciples of Christ denomination while in Indianapolis. In 1965 Jones, his wife Marceline, their “rainbow family” of adopted children, and about 70 followers moved to northern California in search of a place which might be safe in the event of a nuclear war. The movement spread from Redwood Valley, in the California wine country, to San Francisco and then to Los Angeles, but it was most active in San Francisco, where it became highly visible in political and social justice causes.
In 1974 a small group of Temple pioneers moved to Guyana to begin clearing the jungle near the Venezuelan border for an agricultural settlement. In 1977 many members migrated to Guyana, with the permission and welcome of the Guyanese government. By 1978, only a handful of Temple members remained in Redwood Valley, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Almost a thousand people lived in the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, which came to be known as Jonestown.