Marceline Jones Wiki: “Mother” to the Peoples Temple, Wife to Jim Jones

Marceline Baldwin Jones was married to Jim Jones, the charismatic, narcissistic, and sociopathic leader of the Peoples Temple, and mastermind behind Jonestown, Guyana, the scene of one of the most horrific tragedies in American history. Very little is known about Marceline Jones. In fact, most of what people know about her is anecdotal. But renewed interest in Marceline Baldwin Jones’ role in the Peoples Temple and the infamous Jonestown Massacre is changing that. This Marceline Jones wiki fills in some of the gaps on what we know about Jim Jones’ wife.

With renewed interest in the tragic and infamous Jonestown Massacre of 1978, people are wondering: who is Marceline Baldwin Jones? What was her role in the Peoples Temple? What part did she play in the infamous Jonestown Massacre? This Marceline Jones wiki provides those details and more about Jim Jones’ wife.

Who Was Marceline Baldwin Jones?

Marceline Baldwin met Jim Jones in 1946 when she was around 20 years old. Jim, who was 16 at the time, had a full-time job working nights at Reid Memorial Hospital in Richmond, Indiana. At the time, Jim was attending Richmond High School.

It was there that he met Marceline. She was described as a slender, intelligent young woman who had a compassion for people with problems. It didn’t take long before the two started dating.


Marceline Jones

Marceline Baldwin; Photo:

According to her mother Charlotte Baldwin, “Marceline was always for the underdog. When she received her first paycheck from the hospital, she gave some to a local widow with 10 children.”

Eloise Clingman, one of her two sisters added, “Marcie was one of a kind, always helping.”

Marceline’s son Stephan described her as having an energy and purpose that extended beyond her immediate family.

Marceline and Jim Jones married in 1949.

The couple had seven children. They had one biological son: Stephan Gandhi Jones. The Joneses then adopted three Korean-American children: Lew, Suzanne, and Stephanie. Stephanie died in a car accident in 1959. Later on, the couple adopted a Native American daughter, Agnes. They adopted two more sons after that. One an African American boy they named James Warren Jones, Jr. The other a Caucasian child, Timothy Glen Tupper, who they renamed Tim Jones. Tim’s biological mother was a member of the Peoples Temple.

Marceline, Agnes, Lew, and Tim all died in Jonestown on November 18, 1978, as did several grandchildren. The other surviving three children were not there when the massacre took place.

Marceline Jones with her children

Marceline Jones with four of her children; Photo:

Years after Marceline died in the Jonestown Massacre, Stephan said he was “warmed by the stories of people who’d known Mom ‘outside’ the Temple” in her role as State Health Inspector for nursing homes. He observed that even people who were reprimanded and cited by her spoke about her with great admiration for her “deep compassion, unflinching purpose, and even firm hand.”

“To this day, Marceline Mae Baldwin Jones is the most loving, gentle, and giving the person I have ever known. That is my true experience of her,” he wrote.

Marceline’s failure, Stephan conceded, lay in her inability to leave Jim Jones, “and in the compromises born of her sick belief that she could change and manage him.”

Marceline Jones, Wife of Jim Jones

Marceline was raised by Walter and Charlotte Baldwin, according to Stephan, on kindness, loyalty, and conviction; virtues she carried into her adulthood and marriage, “which took place in a stand-by-and-behind-your-man era.”

And Marceline was clearly willing to stand by her husband no matter what. In 1968, Jim Jones started an affair with Carolyn Moore Layton. Their relationship lasted for 10 years; coming to an end in Guyana on November 18, 1978.

Carolyn and Jim had one son, Kimo. She was one of Jones’ most trusted aides and served on the triumvirate, three leaders who were second in command, only to Jim Jones.

The affair was common knowledge, with Carolyn living openly with Jim and her personal belongings in his cabin. He had many other lovers during the last 10 years of his life and in Jonestown, but he pledged his loyalty to Marceline. What that loyalty meant or looked like, though is open for debate.

This loyalty obviously went both ways and brings into question whether Marceline, as part of the triumvirate, was simply following what her husband said, or whether she was a willing participant in their church, The Peoples Temple. But her place in the Temple is only slightly better documented than her childhood and marriage to Jim Jones.

Marceline was described as the mother of the movement, following with her heart, and not just sticking to church doctrine. She was also seen as a counterbalance to Jim’s harsher decrees and judgments.

She wasn’t content being in the background, either. She served as a stand-in for Jim, appearing in one Temple location while he spoke at another. Despite being a loving, gentle person, Marceline chastised those who questioned her husband’s authority or disobeyed Temple rules.

Marceline Jones and Jim Jones

Marceline & Jim Jones; Photo:

This continued in Jonestown, where she often stood by his side in the pavilion.

Marceline threatened to leave Jim on at least one occasion. That came to an end though when her husband warned her that he could ensure she would never see her children again.

A month before she died, Marceline returned to her home in Richmond, Indiana to take her elderly parents to visit Jonestown in Guyana. The night before they left, Charlotte said to her daughter, “Marceline, I wish you had left Jim years ago.”

Marceline replied, “Mother, don’t say that after I have suffered so much. But I want you to know this. This has been my decision. Never blame yourself.”

At the end of their three-week visit, Marceline’s last words to her mother were, “I have lived, not just existed.”

The Letters of Marceline Jones

There are letters purportedly written by Marceline Jones. If they are genuine, they reveal another side of her; that she knew about her husband’s affairs and at times, wasn’t willing to always stand by her man.

In a letter addressed to Jim June 8, 1970, Marceline struggled to acknowledge Carolyn’s role in her husband’s life.

“In one more year, I will have spent half my life with you,” she wrote, “In that time I’ve known great joy and great sorrow. It has been my love for you that has tempered all things and made the good and the bad melt to compose a beautiful harmony.”

“If I have no future with you,” she added, “I’m grateful for today.”

In a letter dated May 24, 1974, Marceline asks Carolyn to take over her responsibilities as a mother should she ever die, and hopes Carolyn will actually move into their marital home to “fill any void my absence might have.”

There are other letters, but their authenticity has been doubted.

In one handwritten note, the first paragraph is in the third person, referring to Marceline as “she” before it’s stroked out and corrected. On top of that, the author misspells Marceline’s name and leaves a blank space for someone else to fill in as to how many years she was married to Jim. The writing itself does not look like other examples of documented letters written by Marceline, including her last will and testament.

The Peoples Temple

Jim Jones established the Peoples Temple, a Protestant church, in Indianapolis in the 1950s. It attracted a lot of attention because he preached against racism and was open to all ethnic groups.

During his dozen years in Indianapolis, Jim encouraged his followers to call him “Father” and Marceline “Mother.”

In 1971, the Peoples Church moved to San Francisco after officials in Indianapolis began investigating real estate transfers from members of the church to Jim Jones, and a for-profit corporation controlled by him, Marceline, and his mother Lynetta.

Trouble followed the Peoples Church to California. After being accused of financial fraud and physical abuse of its members, in 1977, members of the Peoples Church began to move to Guyana. It was there that Jones, along with Marceline, dreamed of building the socialist utopia of the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, better known as Jonestown.

At its peak, the Peoples Temple boasted of having 20,000 members, but a more realistic number puts membership at between 3,000 and 5,000.

Jonestown Massacre

Not everyone believed that Jones was building a tropical paradise where everyone was treated equally in socialist bliss. A group of former Temple members and relatives of current members convinced California Congressman Leo J. Ryan to investigate the settlement in person.

On November 17, 1978, Ryan along with a group of journalists and observers arrived in Jonestown (just a few days after Marceline’s parents left). By all accounts, the first day of the visit went well. But on day two, as Ryan was about to leave, a number of Jonestown residents asked if they could help them leave Guyana. Jim Jones did not respond well to the possible defection of his followers.

One of his followers attacked Ryan with a knife. While he escaped unharmed, Jim ordered that Ryan and the rest of his group be killed. Four, including Ryan, were ambushed and shot at the airstrip as they attempted to leave.

Back in Jonestown, knowing that his time was limited and authorities would be coming to get him, Jim commanded everyone to gather in the main pavilion. It was here that he had everyone drink the cyanide-laced powdered fruit juice similar to Kool-Aid.

Children were the first to die. Doctors estimated their weight and measured an amount of the poison into a syringe. Nurses used syringes to squirt the liquid into their mouths and gave them some punch to wash the bitter taste down.

Death came in less than five minutes.

The adults then drank the cyanide while armed guards watched.

Not all of the deaths were a result of suicide. It later emerged that at least 70 people were injected from behind.

In the final moments of the massacre, Marceline was near his side when Jim died. Witnesses said that Jim Jones’ last words were “Mother. Mother. Mother.”

Survivors say that Marceline resisted until the last child died. One young man, Poncho Johnson, was ordered to take the poison because Stephan says, “he rose up against the men who restrained mom [Marceline].”

When Marceline lost her battle with Jim, she took the poison herself.

Unlike the rest of his followers, Jim Jones, 47, died of a gunshot wound to the head. No one knows if it was murder or suicide. Only seven bodies were autopsied, and that report couldn’t make a determination either way.

In April 1979, Jim Jones’ ashes were enclosed in a water-soluble envelope and dropped from a plane into the Atlantic Ocean. The bodies of Marceline, 51, and two of her adopted children, Lew, 22, and Agnes, 36, were shipped back to Indiana.