An Early Departure from Peoples Temple

by Susan Saylor

The day after the deaths in Jonestown, old memories were re-opened for me. My father was reading the paper and mentioned to my mother it was a good thing she and my grandmother stopped following Jim Jones. If they hadn’t, they might not be alive anymore.

My grandmother and mother were followers of “faith healers.” They traveled around the Midwest seeking salvation and healing. They worshipped Brother Branham, Brother Rhodes, and Brother Jones, whose words were undisputed. Even though I was a young child – I was born in 1957 – I was taken along with them.

My grandmother’s family was from South Charleston, Ohio, and it was there they saw Jim Jones for the first time. They loved his meetings for the excitement and electricity that he created. They became loyal followers traveling to meetings in Cincinnati and Indianapolis. At one meeting in Cincinnati, my mother was “healed” from a kidney problem she never knew she had. For my grandmother, prayer cloths replaced medical care, because Jim had the power of God.

Even after the Jones family left for Brazil, both continued to send their tithes to the Indianapolis church.

I can remember how excited they were when Jim and his family returned. We made the two-hour drive from our home in Vandalia, Ohio to Indianapolis to attend a meeting, but after we parked, my grandmother refused to go in. My mother was upset and wanted to know what the problem was. My grandmother had this “feeling” that something wasn’t right. She said the Devil was in the building, and God was telling her to go home.

We returned home and never saw Jim Jones again. Nevertheless, I remember seeing tracts and requests for money from Peoples Temple, and I know that my family still sent funds.

After the tragedy, I asked my mother what made her follow Jim. She likened going to see him and all the others as a show. She also talked about how kind Marceline was and how that encouraged her to continue attending.

I am so glad my grandmother had her vision, or life could have been very different for my family.

Skip to main content