The housing space and the kitchen were in the back part of the house. The stables and the gateway could be watched from the kitchen (in the case of the long-hall house). The roofs were covered with straw. Chimneys were still unknown so that the smoke from the open fireplace was led over the barn-floor; the individual parts of the pig hung in the smoke. Lighting material, wax candles and rape-oil lamps, were used sparingly. The beds were spilled straw or a straw mattress and a heavy feather-pillow eiderdown.
Every family grew flax, made this into linen which served as a material for bed clothes, underwear and smocks. Otherwise, a lot of garments were made of wool.
Life was simple and modest; and nevertheless the farmer felt himself secure and sheltered with his family under the rule of the monastery and satisfied in his natural bonds, even happy and grateful when the Lord God blessed his work. In the event of failed harvests, Hardehausen monastery helped out with seeds and bread grain from its rich stores. Timber was also handed over free of charge from the great monastery forests.
It has been reported that the monastery had a schoolmaster teach the youth in the three R‘s and singing; so it was noticed that in the certificates the number of those who could not write became lower and lower after 1500. Finally the help of the monastery in improving agricultural cultivation methods and in fruit growing can also be mentioned; the monastery promoted not only the eternal welfare but also the temporal welfare of those people entrusted to it to the best of its power. A good Christian attitude!
The political administration of Scherfede in these years before and after the Thirty Years War was carried out by the “council of five”, which consisted of the judge of Scherfede (Johann Thonemann held the office of judge in Scherfede for any years), the head farmer and the first, second and third superintendents, persons appointed by the monastery and instructed in their tasks. The judge was the actual leader of the community, the head farmer regulated the crop rotation of the three-field system, the pasture management on the meadows and the sequence of unpaid manual work and unpaid horse and cart work, while the three superintendents served as advisers to both. Certainly with such an order self-administration cannot be spoken about. The “council of five” bore more an executive rather than a legislative character in the parlance of today.
In 1430 the monastery succeeded in getting the right from the bishop of Paderborn to fortify Scherfede on account of the on-going attacks and feuds. Between Egge and Diemel a land defence consisting of wall and ditches was built by hand and team duties of all those belonging to the monastery. On top of the wall dense beech groves were planted, whose heads were later chopped off and whose branches were woven together into a sturdy hedge. In addition brambles, wild roses and blackberry creepers were planted, so that an effective defence came into being. A watchtower was added, which had to be manned by day and night in times of feuds. The guard had to announce an approaching danger by a signal-light. In 1437 Rimbeck was likewise enclosed.
The people of Scherfede remained true to the old faith
The Reformation also brought tension and disquiet to Scherfede. As Graf von Waldeck, Bishop of Paderborn, converted to the new teaching and demanded this also for the inhabitants of his area according to the ruling principle “Cuius regio, eius religo”, more and more people from Scherfede made their way to Rhode, about 7 kilometres south of Scherfede, in order to listen to the “new preacher”. As the monastery monks in Hardehausen remained true to the old faith, they tried together with the parish priest of Scherfede to warn their “sheep” to attend Sunday mass in Scherfede. It is reported that what the spiritual gentlemen could not do, a man from the people managed. The following happened on a Sunday morning as the citizens of Scherfede were again on their way to Rhode in large numbers: in a narrow “pasture” a shout of “halt” rang out. The said man, worried, from the people stepped in the way and implored with loud and beseeching voice his brothers and sisters from Scherfede to remain faithful to the church of the fathers and the generations before them, to keep the faith passed down to them and to pass it on for the good of the children as well as not to break the baptismal vows. His rousing words were so successful that all vowed their faith aloud, turned back and returned immediately to the old church. The parish priest had a wooden cross with body put up on the place as an expression of thanks to God. Every year the Markus procession goes from the church of Scherfede to “Weltkes-Kreuz” (the owner of the land at the time: Weltkes).
Scherfede in the Thirty Years War
First of all Scherfede was spared at the beginning of the Thirty Years War, however it was even more terrible in the following years. It began in winter 1621/22, as Herzog Christian von Braunschweig, called the “Tolle Christian”, invaded the royal bishopric and attacked Warburg which was defended by the Kurkölnisch soldiers. The negotiations between the two warring parties resulted in agreement on a sum of 145,000 Taler for withdrawal, failing which the whole area would be destroyed and “all farmers would be cut down”. While the demanded forced contribution was being collected, the unrestrained army ravaged in a terrible way. Burnt letters (letters burnt at the corners with an inscription in fire and blood) were handed over to the villagers. The intimidated inhabitants, also of Scherfede, gave up all provisions, money and valuables, only to save their bare lives and the roofs over their heads. Also the neighbouring troops from Hesse made destructive raids into the Paderborn territory again and again. From August 1633 to May 1646 Swedes under General Baudissin with several regiments were in Warburger Land. Some troop or other was always plundering through the villages around Warburg. 1642 and 1643 were catastrophic, unlucky years for Scherfede. The following statistic is a result of the terrible destruction of these awful war years: “Of all the houses in Scherfede at the time (1643) _ were burnt down and destroyed; from more than a hundred families, 33 were still there in 1643; only 18 farms were still there with a limited function. There were still five horses and 78 head of cattle, 20 of which were cows.” Sheep-breeding which was in full bloom was totally destroyed. About 30 houses (dwelling houses and out-buildings) still stood, about the others it was said: “everything knocked down, everything burnt, devastated and spoiled.”
Johann Thonemann‘s family was also badly affected; the statistics show: “Johann Thonemann 2 houses burnt”.
Now that there was a shortage of every wagon and agricultural implement, also draught animals, those remaining in the village did not think of cultivating their fields anymore also with a view to the fact that the next day or the day after new requisitions or destruction would take place. The debts of the 33 families still remaining according to the register amounted to 2,400 Taler, a big debt if a comparison is made to a good horse that cost 10 Taler at the time. The homeless and totally destitute inhabitants tramped about looking for the urgently needed food on the land around or in order to be able to survive at all, joined up with passing troops, with whom they just as unrestrainedly lived and plundered.
The number of lives these evil years claimed from the small village of Scherfede is not known. That many of the mercenaries and bandits died in the village can be concluded from the findings of bones and war weapons made during the excavations for the building of the school.
How terrible individual years of the Thirty Years War could be for every citizen can be seen from a report of Pfarrer Wahle: “In 1638 the Götz regiments caused such havoc in Wrexen (about 3 km south-west of Scherfede) with excessive drinking of spirits and beer, blackmail, rotting of fruit and shameful whoring, the like of which had never been seen here. On New Year‘s Day 1640 the Stadtbergischen mounted and on foot attacked Werthen (about 5 km south-east of Scherfede), took all the livestock, stripped the people of clothes and shoes, took all provisions. While withdrawing they attacked Wrexen, caught 13 cows and innumerable goats and scorched like in Wethen.”
It is clear that the crudeness and licentiousness of the soldiers, mercenaries and the vagabond groups transferred to the remaining farmers in the defence from hostilities and the protection of family members as well as of house, livestock and food.
Added to all the terrible events of war was the permanent companion of this fury of war, the “black death”, the plague (a pestilence which mostly led to death in earlier times) and small-pox (pox, a contagious and dangerous pestilence – mortality of about 30% of those affected in the case of medium seriousness).