The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

October 16, 2009

Lantern Walking Tour of Mercer

Jason Kapusta/Herald

A lantern. A man. An American town full of old stories.

Old buildings bearing ornaments of a nobler age. Old tombstones etched with names of founding fathers and war dead.

If those walls in Mercer could talk, think of the tales that could be told. Now, they’re whispers in the yellowed pages of musty history books; names in genealogies handwritten in family Bibles; edifices bearing bronze plaques extolling former glories.

A couple times a year, the tales are told again.

Thomas Bestwick walks the streets of Mercer, a lantern lighting his way in the dusk: A forage-capped, frock-coated “Roundhead” of Company G of the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment who fought on the battlefields of the Civil War and did something more than 600,000 others did not: He survived.

Bill Philson, Bestwick’s maternal great-great-grandson, keeps his kin’s memory alive each autumn. As executive director of the Mercer County Historical Society, Philson leads a walking tour of the county seat that includes stops at Mercer Citizens Cemetery on the southern edge of town and Old Mercer Cemetery on the northwest end.