"River meadow farming" in the 19th and 20th centuries

Agriculture & Fishery

Schafhude auf den Flößwiesen, Ostern 1939 (Kreis- und StadtA Pb, Foto A. Gellhaus, S-M4D, Nr. 6682)

From 1873 onwards, the centuries-old wetlands of the Pader were for the first time converted on a large scale into raft and trickle meadows. On the newly reclaimed land, tenants and owners alike were to increasingly gain fodder grass and hay crops as well as new pastures.

The first beginnings of a raft meadow economy on the Pader can already be found in the early modern period. At the beginning of the 18th century, the Abdinghof monastery built a new dam on the Riemeke brook in the western Paderborn „Feldmark“ (parish land), in order „to be able to raft its meadows better.“[1] Until around 1870, however, the artificial irrigation of a Pader meadow was a private matter. [2] In early spring and summer, some residents, often to the chagrin of the mill operators,[3] cut through the banks of the higher-lying „Mühlenpader“ („Mill Pader“, a mill race) with spades to flood their grassland or hayfield. Also, summertime riverbank cuttings could conveniently supply drinking water to the grazing cattle. The annual „rafting“ (watering) served first and foremost to fertilise the soil naturally by supplying the grasses and herbs with the nutrients dissolved in the dammed water.[4] On the neighbouring Alme, these capital- and labour-intensive meliorations were initially carried out by larger aristocratic estates between 1824 and 1857.[5] From the mid-1850s, they were followed by farmers’ meadow cooperatives. Their members, like the cooperative in Wünnenberg on the Alme, Afte and Aa in 1856/57, invested their collective money in increasing fodder yields.

At first, the large landowners along the Pader converted their wetlands, which had previously only been used off the beaten track, into productive grassland. In addition to the Neuhaus economist Friedrich Schaefer, the landowner and building contractor Heinrich von Köppen (1824-1894) at Haus Ringelsbruch near Wewer was particularly involved in the conversion of the Pader meadows („Köppen meadows“). After the legal opposition of the Neuhaus mill owners Friedrich Müller (wheat mill) and Ludwig Gockel (fulling mill) was rejected by decision of the „Königliche Generalkommission in Münster „ (royal general commission in Münster) at the end of October 1870 – they feared water losses for their mills – the levelling and excavation work could begin. [6] According to older plans by the meadow engineer Bastian from Warburg (1866) and the „Project A“ (1872), numerous locks, weirs and ditches were completed by the end of the 1870s. The knight’s estate owner von Köppen implemented the construction measures. [7] He also undertook to take over the burden of the annual clearing of the Pader in the section between the city wall and the Höpper Bridge from the treasury for the one-off payment of 1,200 Talers (§ 2). After completion of the construction measures, von Köppen was to receive an additional 3,100 Talers from Berlin as „compensation“ for his participation (§ 1).

At the end of the 1880s, the raft water was increasingly polluted with organic waste. With the completion of the Paderborn slaughterhouse (1886), the „Schlachthauskanal“ (slaughterhouse canal), which was also newly constructed, took over the disposal of soluble slaughterhouse waste, which accumulated en masse in the city.[8] Constructed as an artificial diversion from the „Maspernpader“, this new branch also served as the main irrigation line for the city’s trickle meadows. The „Inselbad“ sanatorium on the Fürstenweg (prince way) was also affected by this, and the director of the institution, Dr. Brügelmann, finally took legal action against it. On a „complex of several hundred acres of meadows“[9] the foul-smelling but nutrient-rich sewage henceforth fertilised extensive green areas in the Pader meadows. It was only with the application of artificial mineral fertilisers that the costly and labour-intensive raft meadow management was gradually abandoned. In the 1960s, the last raft and trickle meadows slowly disappeared from the landscape of the Pader.[10]

[1] Quoted after Balzer, Untersuchungen, p. 97, Anm. 214.

[2] Cf. Feige, Wolfgang: Wiesenbewässerung an der Alme und in ihren Nebentälern, in: Heimatpflege in Westfalen 17/6 (2004), p. 1-6, here p. 1.

[3] An example of this is the request of the tenant of the fulling mill, Louis Gockel, of 30 January 1860. He blames the „wild“ rafting of some neighbours as one of the causes for the stated lack of water at his mill. Gockel complained that „arbitrary cuts were made in the banks, which deprived the Pader of an extraordinarily large amount of water to the detriment of the mills in a completely superfluous and useless way for the growth of the grasses“. The government should therefore „completely“ prohibit the landowners from rafting in this section. LA Detmold, Regierung Minden I U, Nr. 659, unfol.

[4] On the irrigation technique of the “ditch dam system” and “back irrigation” applied on the Pader, cf. Moritz, G.: Flößwiesen – Aufstieg und Niedergang, in: Naturschutz und Landschaftspflege in Paderborn, Issue Nr. 4 (1999), p. 2-16, here p. 3f.

[5] For example Gut Erpernburg: Familie von und zu Brenken, Gut Ringelsbruch: Graf v. Westphalen, Lichtenau: v. Oeynhausen.

[6] Cf. copy of the verdict with reasons of the „Generalkommission“ (general commission) of 28 October 1870, StadtA Pb, A 3323, fol. 164r-169v; here fol. 164r.

[7] Cf. copy of „Regulierungs-Vertrag zw. Rittergutsbesitzer v. Köppen u. Königliche Regierung in Minden“ (regulation contract between the owner of the knight’s estate von Köppen and the Royal Government in Minden) of 27 October 1873, LA Detmold, M1 III E, No. 151, unfolded. Among other things, landowner von Köppen had made his fortune from 1850 onwards through the construction of the Hamm-Kassel railway line. Friendly hint by Mr. Michael Pavlicic.

[8] Karl Hüser puts the monthly slaughter rate for 1887/88 at an average of 862 animals. Hüser: Von der Reichsgründung bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg (1871-1914), in: Hüser, Karl/Göttmann, Frank/Jarnut, Jörg (Eds.): Paderborn – Geschichte der Stadt in ihrer Region, Vol. 3: Das 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Paderborn 1999, p. 101-161, here p. 112ff.

[9] Quoted after Hüser, Von der Reichsgründung, p. 112.

[10] Cf. in general Moritz, Flößwiesen, p. 4.

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This is an excerpt from an essay by the historian Prof. Dr. Michael Ströhmer. The original title of the essay is: "Wirtschaftsregion Pader - Eine geschichtswissenschaftliche Skizze (1350-1950)". Should you have further interest in the economic history of the Pader, we recommend downloading the complete essay (PDF file).

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