David Monroe Wert was the son of parents who bucked the odds. His father, Jacob Wert, and mother, Sarah Elizabeth Faber, both native Pennsylvanians, were born in 1804 and 1807, respectively, when the average life expectancy was forty-five years. Jacob lived to eighty-four and Sarah lived to ninety-five. Jacob’s grandfather John Miller and Sarah’s two grandfathers, John Faber and Jonas Rudy, all fought for American Independence. David, born on April Fool’s Day, shares his middle name with famed Democratic president James Monroe. The Werts were of German ancestry and the Rudys of German-Swiss roots.

Though not as long-lived as his parents, David did live to seventy-one, a longer-than-average lifespan in the nineteenth century. During his life, David worked as a laborer, was married twice, and fathered fourteen children. But it was one of the ten children he had with his first wife, Catherine Shoop, who is of most interest here.

David was born in Powells Valley, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, on All Fool’s Day of 1829. David was the oldest of nine siblings, followed by Elizabeth, Catherine, Sarah, John, Adam, Peter, Matthew, and Martha. He died two years before his mother on December 9, 1900, in Dayton, Pennsylvania, of lung congestion. He was buried from the Calvary United Methodist, or Union, Church in Wiconisco, Dauphin County. Wiconisco was laid out in 1848. The church was erected in 1854.

David married Catherine Shoop about 1849 in Dauphin County. He was twenty and she was nineteen. Catherine was the daughter of John Shoop and Sarah Wertz, both of distant German ancestry. John’s grandfather John George Schupp and Sarah’s grandfather Michael Garman helped defend our freedoms, soldiering during the American Revolution.

Catherine was born on February 24, 1830, in Northumberland County, which borders Dauphin to the north. Catherine was baptized on March 6, 1830, in the Stone Valley Reformed Lutheran Church, named for her maternal grandmother Catherine Garman Wertz. The church was established in the 1770s. She was the second oldest of four girls. Her older sister was Anna Shoop and her younger sisters were Anna Maria, Elizabeth, and Salome. Catherine and her siblings would mourn their mother’s passing as teens.

David and Catherine probably met at a church function or through relatives. In any case, they didn’t live far apart. Catherine was counted in the census in 1830 and 1840 with her father in Lower Mahanoy, Northumberland County, which was about fifteen miles from Halifax, where David was counted in the census in 1830 and 1840 with his family.

Both David and Catherine were literate. There are sixteen couples in this generation, ten of which were fully literate, including the Thompson, Goodmans, Hensels, Batdorfs, Werts, McClouds, Oberlanders, Gauglers, Keefers and Livezlys. The Andersons and the Laymans of this generation, were slightly literate, where one adult was literate, and one was not. Two families, the Peters and Rows, were illiterate. The Updegrove family became literate as adults and the Dankerts were Germans, the only couple of this generation not in America.

After they married, David and Catherine moved to Upper Paxton, Dauphin County, which was right between their families’ homes in Halifax and Lower Mahanoy. They most likely moved for work, though being equidistant from their families was a plus. Upper Paxton was bordered by Mahantango Mountain to the north, Berry Mountain to the south, and the Susquehanna River to the west. The nearest town, Millersburg, was an important ferry town on the river. The area was rich with timber, streams, and wildlife.

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