Jonestown Organization

The clearing and construction of Jonestown began in 1974. By January 1977 the number of residents had grown from twenty-five to about fifty. Most of the mass exodus to Guyana of Peoples Temple members took place between June 1977 – about the time that the New West article was published – through November 1977. By the end of that year, Jonestown had more than 700 people (See chart: PT in Guyana: Population & Growth).

Building an infrastructure in Jonestown to meet the needs of so many people was essential. Though Jim Jones always remained the center of all authority, review and decision-making, a hierarchy of people was needed to establish and maintain supports taken for granted in California – buildings, providing food and water, sanitation, public utilities, medical support, education, etc. Carving out a functional city in the jungle was a tremendous task for “ordinary” people, something quite different from what the Peoples Temple community had ever done.

The structure that evolved from Summer 1977 to Fall 1978 emerges in the few “snapshots” that remain. Reports, lists, agendas, notes, letters, and receipts show the formation and activities of the departmental structure in place by November 1978.

  • Administration
    Accounting & Organizational Charts, Departments, Jonestown Jobs
  • Planning Commission Reorganized
    Planning, PC notes, Steering, Assistant Chief Administrative Officers (ACAOs), & Analysts Meeting Minutes, Penny Kerns’ Reports
  • Rally: Peoples Forum
    Rally purpose & structure, Minutes, Descriptions in Roller Journal

Ten Departments – Formalized by August 1978
In July 1978, the Jonestown leadership requested a list of jobs and workers from the newly defined Departmental structure. This was to include each person’s skills and their evaluation as a worker. In the documents recovered from Jonestown and released by the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act, some departmental records are more complete than others. Whether this means some departments responded more fully or some records were lost, may never be known, although minutes of Steering Committee meetings do indicate a concerted push to get the information from all departments. 

From these materials, we have assembled a list of jobs in a department and what each person did. A comprehensive list of all jobs is in Administration description above. A department’s jobs are included in each Department description below.

Departments were numbered with Roman numeral codes.

The chart below shows twelve departments with their numerical codes. Arranging the department names in numerical order also puts departments I to X in alphabetical order, suggesting the numeral codes were added onto the alphabetized department list with two more departments added onto that.

The listing shows there was a concerted effort to identify all the activities of running Jonestown and to coordinate what needed to be done. Other recovered documents in Security and Housing use these codes as a short hand to indicate a person’s or place’s association with a department.

Department Codes

Numeral Department Name Supervisor Activities
Code I Agricultural & Livestock Jack Beam

Darrell Devers

Piggery & Livestock, Poultry, Cassava Mill, Cassava Warehouse, Insecticide & Fertilizers, Library, Farm & Other, Seeds & Tools, Nursery Stock
Code II Business & Industry Kay Nelson

Hue Fortson

Albatross, Cudjoe, Kumaca Store, Sewing Room
Code III Construction, Power & Transport Charlie Touchette

Al Touchette

Construction, Electric & Power Dept, Machine Shop, Metal Fabrication Shop, Welding, Parts and Tool Room, Trucks & Transportation, Wood Shop
Code IV Education, Housing & Population Ava Jones (Brown)

Judy Ijames

Baby Nursery, Toddlers, Pre-School, Grades & High School, Library, Counseling, Housing, Inspectors
Code V Entertainment & Guests Shanda Oliver

Rhonda Fortson

Band, Wardrobe, Tapes & Supplies, Videos & Movies
Code VI Foods & Central Supply Joyce Touchette

Stanley Clayton

Bakery, Central Supply, Herbal Kitchen, Laundry, Main Kitchen, Rice Workers, Cassava Mill Storage, Central Supply Storage, Aluminum Wire Storage, Barrel Storage (Wheat & Beans), Tent Storage
Code VII Health Services Marceline Jones

Phyllis Bloom (Chaikin)

Bond, Dental Clinic, Doctors Office, Practitioners Office, Clinic, Lab & Pathology, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, X-Rays
Code VIII Public Utilities Robert Christian

Shirley Gieg (Hicks)

Public Utilities
Code IX Security Tim Jones (Tupper)

Johnny Jones (Cobb)

Security Supplies, Dispatch, Front Entrance
Code X Small Shops Lee Ingram

Amondo Griffith

Brick Factory, P.A. & Electronics, Graphics Shop, Refrigeration & Small Appliances, Sawmill & Alaskan Sawmill, Shake mill, Shoe Repair Shop, Soap Factory
Code XI Miscellaneous Needs (initially under several departments)
Code XII Senior Citizens Care Unit Clevyee Sneed Geriatrics Administration (initially under Health Services)

Adapted from: RYMUR 89-4286-E-2-A-1, a-c, by Don Beck 4/08

– Don Beck