by Nancy Cioch

Manheim's Old Yellow Church

Rheimensneider's Bush was the site of an early settlement in the wilderness. Those pioneers erected a log church in 1733. Henry Rheimensneider and Johannes Boyer were the first settlers on Glen's Purchase. They built up a small productive settlement with log homes, gristmill and blockhouse for protection from the Indians. They cleared the land and raised their crops. Those early years were relatively peaceful and productive. The land on which the church stood was originally a land grant of eight acres from the British crown, going back to 1722. For over 100 years the scriptures were read in German from a German Bible. The sermons were preached in German and German Hymns were sung. The church was called the Dutch Reformed Lutheran church.

Many from this community joined General Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany. The cemetery monument lists their names.

April 3, 1780 a group of 60 Tories and Indians attacked Rheimensynder's Bush. They burned a gristmill and took the owner John Garter and his son John prisoners. Some other men were captured on the road, one was Joseph Newman. Others were taken prisoner: John Windecker, Henry Shaver, George Adle, Cobus Vanslyke and Youker. The prisoners were taken to Canada. All returned at the close of the War except John Garter who died in Canada from punishment after an escape attempt. George Adler did escape and returned earlier. During the attack, many of the inhabitants took refuge in the blockhouse at the settlement. After this raid, most moved to the valley for better protection.

In 1781 a new small frame church was built.

Sept 1, 1821 the religious society was incorporated at Rheimensneider's Bush under the name of the German Evangelical Society of the County of Herkimer. The first trustees elected were Peter B. Keyser, Henry F. Keller, John Pickert, John Bellinger, Jost D. Petrie, Peter P. Nellis. In 1822 a frame church was erected by persons belonging to Reformed and Lutheran denominations at a cost of $1600. Records show that funds were raised by subscription and donations for materials were pledged. Peter Keyser "fetched out $50 worth of stones for the foundation". Lime worth $30 was furnished by Mark Bellinger. Jost Petrie hauled the sand. Payments of pledges were to be made within 12 months or the trustees would bring court action to make collections. Col William Feeter gave all of the timber for the church steeple. This church was dedicated 10/29/1822. Sermons were preached in German and English. The name was officially changed to Dutch Reformed and Lutheran Union Church. If there wasn't a pastor available, Col Feeter took this responsibility and read from the Bible. In 1853 the church was remodeled at a cost of $1500.

In 1872 plans were made to build a beautiful new edifice but it wasn't completed until 1882. Many of the pastors traveled from other churches. Reverend Charles Witthoft served as pastor for a time early in his career. In 1921 he presented a new pulpit, altar, hymnboard and other furnishings. These articles showed skilled craftsmanship. He recalled years later how he served the Manheim Lutheran church and constructed the lectern, pulpit and altar for them.

The Yellow Church was demolished in 1965. The bell was given to St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Johnstown. The pews were donated to a Baptist Congregation in Utica. The windows were given to churches able to use them. (Two of the stained glass windows were installed in the Snell's Bush Church.) The organ is at the Dolgeville-Manheim Historical Museum. All that remains at the site of the Yellow Church are the steps and some stone from the foundation. Behind where the church stood is the Yellow Church Cemetery. This historic cemetery is the final resting place of 45 Revolutionary Soldiers. Of the Kilts Family - in the American Patriots at the Battle of Oriskany - only Peter Kilts, Johannes Kilts, and Conrad Kilts are listed. The monument which stands in the Yellow Church Cemetery lists Peter Kilts. Yet Peter Kilts lived in Stone Arabia never in Manheim….. Nicholas was the one who moved to the Yellow Church area - but he moved there after the Revolution……

The Kilts family first arrived in this area about 1788. Nicholas Kilts of Stone Arabia bought land here and named it Kilts Hill. Henry and Deanne Crofoot, descendants now own this farm. Nicholas Kilts saw Militia service in the French and Indian War. He served as a private in the revolution. It appears that he left Stone Arabia with his son William, born 1769 in Stone Arabia and lived in Fairfield on Kilts Hill until his death in 1808. William married Eva Windecker, born 1769 in Fairfield. William was on an old Yellow Church subscription list for pledging 37 1/2 cents annually to pay the pastor. At that time the pastor was Peter W. Domeier of the Stone Arabia Reformed Church who came four times a year to preach. Their son Conrad (b May 2, 1795) inherited the farm at Kilts Hill. William and Eva were buried on the Kilts farm but were later moved to Yellow church cemetery. Conrad married Mary (Polly) Ralston and they had one son Peter Kilts b Aug 30, 1822. All had been members of the Yellow church and are buried at that cemetery. William and Conrad served in the war of 1812, the NY militia 129th regiment.

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