The writings of Lynetta Jones

Lynetta Jones, the mother of Jim Jones, is an iconic person in the history of Peoples Temple. She was a tough, hard-scrabble woman who raised her son almost single-handedly, and who had to fight – and seemingly relished the opportunity to do so – for everything she had. In the public sphere, she was an unabashed champion for her son – his ministry in a church, his leadership of a movement, his claims of divinity – although in private conversations with him or other members of the Jones family, she was as quick to lance his professed abilities as she did with everything else in her life.

The relationship was fairly uncomplicated for Jim Jones. He loved his mother deeply, and granted her dispensations – such as not insisting that she attend Temple church services – that he did for very few others. When she died in Jonestown of natural causes in December 1977, he had her buried in a place of honor near his cabin, and according to several former Jonestown residents, spoke fondly of her often in his last year of life.

There are numerous writings that Lynetta left behind, many of which seemed to have been for her own personal pleasure, although some later writings may have been for a biography which the Temple had in the works of its leader. Some are a hybrid of the two, reflections on her own life in which “Jimba” plays a secondary role, sometimes almost as a foil to allow her to present her own views as though they were identical to his. And in a couple of cases, the writings are solely autobiographical, a memoir of a Depression-era woman in the Midwest.

In addition to her handwritten poems and stories are numerous tape-recorded reminiscences which she gave in response to questions asked by both named and unknown Temple archivists.

Many of the stories published below as Index of Stories Written appear in two or three drafts. Several of the handwritten drafts have a single slashing cross-out, indicating that the story had been set in type, and in fact, most of the typed versions – likely transcribed by someone else – do seem to come from an earlier handwritten draft.

But there are also several stories without earlier handwritten drafts, and it is difficult to tell if they originated in manuscript or tape form, especially the ones with notes written as addenda in the third person (“Lynetta said”), as well as the reminders to Lynetta to add a certain story. Whether handwritten or transcribed from a tape interview, though, the words have a unique and consistent style, a voice as strong as the woman herself.

Notes: The typed and text drafts of Index of Stories Written have been re-arranged into the order as they appear in the index, with additional stories appended at the end.

Also, the unconventional spellings and word usage, which makes up a good part of these writings, is left intact except where editing is needed for clarity.

Finally, most of the stories are undated, although they were likely written closer to the end of Peoples Temple’s history rather than its beginning. Nevertheless, these writings included in the Indiana section of Primary Sources since they describe Jim Jones as a young man.

Lynetta Jones Early Writings, RYMUR 89-4286-EE-3-DDDD-1 – EE-3-DDDD-5, EE-3-FFFF-1 – EE-3-FFFF-9

Index of Stories Written
PDF of Handwritten Drafts, RYMUR 89-4286-EE-3-EE-3-NNNN-1 – EE-3-NNNN-40
PDF of Typed Drafts, RYMUR 89-4286-BB-18-Z-2 – BB-18-Z-48

The Ballad of the Jim Jones Movement, RYMUR 89-4286-X-3-f-22a – X-3-f-22b

Writings of Lynetta Jones in Jonestown, RYMUR 89-4286-FF-7-a-1 – FF-7-h-3 NEW

Originally posted on January 26th, 2015.

Last modified on July 13th, 2020.
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