The Old Yellow Church Cemetery • Little Falls, NY

Narrated by Megan Good, Cooperstown Museum Studies Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta, Class of 2022.

Places with historic significance can often hold a lot of emotional energy.

A sense of connection, feelings of reverence, or an air of solemn tranquility. The Old Yellow Church Cemetery is a place that holds these kinds of emotions for many of its visitors.

The land on which you’re currently standing was a land grant from the British crown in 1722. Originally named Rheimensnyder’s Bush, Palatine Germans built what was once wilderness into a successful settlement. In 1733, a small log church was built; it would be the first of three churches the plot would house over the next 250 years.

The community of settlers soon sent their young men to join the war for independence.

Many of these soldiers lost their lives, most of them just 30 miles away, in the Battle of Oriskany led by General Herkimer. Approximately 50 of these soldiers were put to rest in the church cemetery. Those young lives weren’t the community’s only loss in this war for independence. In 1780 sixty Tories and indigenous people burned down the log church and the gristmill.

In 1781, a new frame church was built.

The Rheimensnyder’s Bush community remained connected to their heritage and German continued to be the primary language used in the church for another half century. In 1821, a religious society was formed called the German Evangelical Society of the County of Herkimer and in 1822 the last of the three churches was constructed and painted yellow gaining its Yellow Church title. In 1926, a monument was placed in the cemetery to honor the 50 patriots buried here. The church lasted until 1965 when it was razed and its windows, pews, and bell were donated to churches in the surrounding area.

The razing of the last church is not where the history of this site ends.

In 1970 a reunion group was founded and until at least the early 1990s annual picnics were held bringing together families of those buried in the cemetery to celebrate their ancestry and research their genealogy. In 2010, Little Falls and the Little Falls Historical Society observed their first Patriots Day here at the Old Yellow Church Cemetery remembering the lives of those 50 young men who fought in the revolution and who now rest in the cemetery.

This place has hosted a diversity of, often small, but tremendously impactful events over the past 300 years. Baptisms, marriages, burials, worship, prayer, reunions, celebrations, and memorials. I encourage you to take a moment of silence during your visit to appreciate the emotion and energy held in this location and the weight of its history.

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