The Herald Bulletin

March 22, 2010

Jesse J. Wilkerson: Looking to the past helps us to see our future

Today I am beginning a new journey.

I am here at the Anderson Public Library with Dan. Dan works upstairs in the Indiana Room. Amongst the many things he does here, one of his assignments is to assist patrons with information regarding their genealogy and Indiana’s history.

I started here with some background information like birthdays, names, addresses in hopes of finding out more about my personal family history and their involvement in this community or the communities that they were a part of years ago.

I also ended up here after spending time with someone last week who is nearly 60 years my senior. I consider this individual a person who has achieved a high level of success in this community and cherished my time with them along with several other seniors that I have the privilege of calling friends.

The longer I spent with this individual and heard about their community service and their perspective from their life experience I couldn’t help but think that there were plenty of others who share a rich history of what this community used to be even years before the pre-General Motors era. History tells a story that the future tends to repeat.

I don’t know if it is the fact that spring is in the air or that I have had a personal desire to start a new project, but over the last several months I have been wondering about who my great-great-great-grandparents were and how the most successful of them fared. I have also wondered after watching a special on PBS how far back I could stretch to find out everything I could about my personal genealogy and the history of our community.

Here is where I started. If you go to you will find links that take you to everywhere from ancestry to Anderson’s history to newspaper archives. Though many of the resources are found online, you can also search the volume of books available. Author John L. Forkner, who wrote “The History of Madison County,” has been mentioned as one of the most frequently used resources for information about our county. The book deals with information pre-1914.

Author Esther Dittlinger also produced an informative pictorial history of our town called “ANDERSON: A Pictorial History.” Her book shows pictures of our banks, the Remy brothers and Remy Electric, our original courthouse, the Union Building, movers and shakers and even a photo of my uncle (Bobby Wilkerson) wearing a tight Chicago Bulls jersey.

This spring/summer project is one that I hope yields perspective to how our town has and will overcome its challenges. The right combination of perspective from both our past and our projected future offers hope that things will change.

Jesse J. Wilkerson is the principal of a local architecture firm. His column appears every other Monday on the Business page.