The Lincolnshire Farmers: Annie Kennett, later Godward

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Anne Elizabeth Kennett, later Godward
Annie was nearly seven years old when she went to live in Paraguay. Her parents, Richard Kennett and Jane Price were married in 1863 in Bermondsey. Less than seven weeks after Annie's birth in early December 1865, her father died in an accident at work.

Jane Kennett née Price married for a second time Thomas Godward in December 1868. Subsequently they had twin daughters, Florence and Lillian, born in June 1869. Three years later, the family was persuaded, along with many other people, to go abroad in search of a better future for themselves. They all had been persuaded that life in a new country would bring them freedom from poverty and lack of opportunity.

So, accompanying her parents, half-brother or cousin Charley, who was two years older, and Lillian her half-sister, Annie travelled out to Paraguay on the ss Rydal Hall, leaving London on 27 October 1872.

During the next 12 months, the Godwards, along with many British families, suffered unimaginable hardships as they attempted to establish themselves in the Paraguayan jungle. Annie's written memories and the letter sent back home by Tom Shrewsbury tell in detail what they suffered before being rescued.

The account below, written in 1883 when Annie was 17 years old, is the recollection of an adolescent. Even though she wrote these ten years after the events described, their sharpness remains.

She wrote down her memories in a small household account book, measuring 6½ by 4 inches (see image below). This has survived and is still in the hands of her descendants, to whom I am very grateful for permission to reproduce them.

As the original is in a more or less continuous form, for the sake of clarity the text has been broken up into paragraphs and cross-headings added.

Annie's mother Jane died in Rosario in April 1878. Subsequently Annie returned to England and in 1884 married James E. Flook, by whom she had three sons and two daughters. She died in 1946, aged 80 years.

A descendant of Annie Kennett, Barbara Johnson, has kindly given permission for the publication of this transcription of Annie's memories.

Annie's Diary

Annie's memories of Paraguay

Two sample pages from the account written by Annie Kennett at the age of 17 years. In it she tells of the hardships suffered by her family and other settlers from England during a year spent trying to establish themselves in the Paraguayan jungle.

sampler made by Annie Kennett A B C D E F G H I J K L M N


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r

s t u v w x y z July 1877

Annie E Kennett

Aged 11 Years

South America


Sweet Home

Sampler made by Annie Kennett in 1877
(the blue/yellow wools have faded to grey)

(photographed by Janice Cole)

Setting out
I am going to try to write a little about my American life, but being so young when I went out there, I cannot remember the dates, but I will try and write what I can think of.

We went out to Paraguay in South America. We was in that place 1 year. During that time we went through no end of ups and downs. Well I must begin from the time we started from the docks in London.

Neighbours on board
When we was in the docks waiting, there was some people crying, some sin[g]ing and making a noise. Then when we went on board Mr. T. [Mr. T. or Mr. G. is Thomas Godward, stepfather to Annie] did not look sharp so we was afraid we should not get a bunk, but my poor mother sat down on the bed and cried for there were such a mixed lot of people, English, Irish, Italians, French. Well at last Mr. T. obtained a bunk near the engine so it was rather hot, we had the top one. We fixed up some blankets and quilts around for anybody going down the middle of the ship could see into any of the bunks.

The voyage out
Opposite us was some French, so dirty they were. One thing my poor mother made us children a cake, and when we was up on deck, a boy from the next berth came and helped himself. Mother was very much annoyed about it.

When we was going through the Bay of Biscey we had some hat boxes piled up by my head and when the ship rolled, they tumbled on my head, and the tin pots and dishes rolling all about, and the shrieks of the people, for it was so rough. It was something heartrending. I can often think now I can still hear the shrieks, for we thought the ship was going to the bottom. Charley used to help the cooks so he used to get an extra loaf sometimes or any little bit he could get.

Arrival in Paraguay
Well at last we arrived at our destination, and now we have got to travel up country in bullock carts. We start from Asunction, and then we get nearly to w[h]ere our ground is, we stop there a good time. We each had to pitch our tents and sometimes in the middle of the night, there came a swarm of ants, and then we woke up in a fright with them all over us, especially in our hair, and they sting us something cruel. Then we jumped out of the bed, did not stop to dress, threw a blanket over our shoulders and ran over to a Roman Catholic chapel, and sat down around the porch until the men came to say they had gone.

We never stopped for boots but we used to run across the grass with our bare feet, and there was one poor woman so ill, and she had a lot of little children, and when the ants came her husband had to bring her in our tent and put her in my mothers bed until they had gone from her own tent. She always used to crave for some of mothers cold tea, poor thing, she died soon after.

A scamp and a rogue
Mr. T. took out our parlour carpet and he sold it to Wainwright, also his ring, but he got a little of the money but not all. I had forgotten to mention who Wainwright was, he was the head official, he had the money to get things for the people’s comfort, but he was a scamp and a thorough rogue. He used to have the English people’s letters stopped so that our friends in England should not hear of his scandalous conduct, and at last he disappeared with all the money and what he could get.

Arrival in the jungle
At last we make another start for the piece of ground, each man was to have so much, we are in bullock carts again. We camp of a night and hear the growls of the wild beasts of the forest. The next morning we start again, we arrive very near our ground with[in] eyesight then we stopped near some trees, and then Mr. T. had to set to work and cut a path to the ground through so high weeds higher than our heads, and we carried all the things from the cart then pitched the tent, and we put them in, and by the path, there was the bed [and] some large wild beast.

So Mr. T. had to watch that. The only neighbours we had was Mr. & Mrs. Bailey and family. One night Mr. T. kept watch and the next Mr. Bailey, on account of the wild beast and they kept such huge fires to keep them away, as we was only a few yards off a large forest. We used to see plenty of monkeys in the trees and snakes in the grass.

Encounter with a snake
One day Mr. T. was in the forest cutting wood for the fire with Mr. B. Mother, Lilly and myself was lying down, and when I was going to get up there was a huge snake by the bedside looking up. I felt very much afraid for he looked as if he was coming up on the bed. We called to the men, but chopping the trees down they could not hear. So I jumped down the other side and ran by with all my might to the forest, for I was afraid while I was gone it might get on the bed. Well the men came back and it had gone behind one of the boxes, and they killed it.

Murdered for a watch
Mr. T. had to go once or twice a week for the rations, up to some more English people, some distance away. One morning to our astonishment there came one of the officials galloping as fast as he could on horseback, to say that Mr. and Mrs. Newman had been murdered in their bed. Mr. T. went back with him. It appeared that they had made themselves a room, and had put carpet around it when it was not thatched and they had had two men to do the roof, and the men had seen that they had a watch and they being such uncivilised wretches came and murdered them in their sleep, for the next people living not far away from them, had heard Mr. and Mrs. Newman playing their concertina and they had played it in bed for it was found on the bed. When Mr. T. went in they were both laying in their own blood for they were killed in their sleep.

Captured and released
It le[f]t us poor English in an awful state of mind, as it happened Mr. Newman sister had gone away from there the day before and their baby had only died the week before and the murderers had turned everything upside-down. They had some seeds tied up in bags in the sides of the house and they had even ran their knives through them. After some time they caught the men, and the English men was called up to shoot them, and when they had got up to the place, they had been let out and the men were told that the prisoners had been fed on the best of everything. I think it was a horrid thing for the officials to do after calling the men up, for they ought to have been killed for it. In fact shooting was too good for the wretches.

The next thing I shall write about was a terrific storm we had in the middle of the night. When we was in bed the wind tore a hole in the tent and Mr. T. held an umbrella to prevent the rain coming in. Presently there came a such a gale of wind, down went the tent split in pieces. We all had a blanket around us and there was a natives hut some distance off and we had to walk there, we go along a path one by one and if it had not have been for the lightening we could not have possibly found our way. How it did pour rain and hail, we went with our feet bare, with just a blanket around us.

We arrived at the hut at last. The native women are a kind-hearted lot. They took us in, gave us their beds until we got another tent. They was very kind to us, in those parts the women do the work while the men take it easy. They think nothing of climbing up a tree for oranges. Their costume is made of calico because it is very hot.

Settlers abandon the scheme
Now we have left our tent or should say ground, it is impossible to cultivate anything in such a wild place. Now we are going to some galpons, each family divide the division off by putting up blankets or quilts on anything they can, we make the fires down the middle, and we make the bedsteads of trees, the trees we cut down and bind the trunks together. The galpon is a long shed, and there are plenty of rats, and my poor mother used to keep a stick by her bedstead to keep them away for they used to run up the thatch by our heads, and they was such a lot.

Pests and disease
Another pest was jiggers, a tiny insect that got into our feet and some of the peoples had it. It is a little red insect and it get under the skin and lays eggs, and it is the size of a pea and it is round. My poor brother burned his foot so he got such a lot in he had to have his heel in, at least, a thick piece cut quite off. Mother had all her toe nails come off 3 times, another complaint was the ague. I used to have it every 2 days and I used to sit over the fire and keep fanning it with my hat for it is a horrid feeling.

The food chiefly consisted of boiled rice and meat so many times a week and a kind of cake the natives used to sell us called chiapas, made of maize like chaff to eat so very dry. I remember one day I was so wet the woman could come around, so we had not anything to eat and we ate oranges, for they grow in abundance, large groves, they are so plentiful.

Now the water is so scarce we are obliged to get it out of ponds or ditches anywhere we can and sometimes it is so dirty. We came across a spring and we got our water from there until we discovered there was such a lot of snakes we had to leave off. The flies and mosquitoes are something dreadful and the heat. The English people are thinking of coming nearer England to Rosario or Buenos Ayres.

Return to Asuncion
But first we must again go in bullock carts. They are rather difficult to get. They send 8 at first and a lot of families go, but there are some left. We are amongst the number. Mrs. French and family are gone for they had a kind of round hut, after they had gone we and another family went in until they could get some more bullock carts to bring us away. Mrs. Brownlow and family lived in a tent farther away from the galpon, and they came up to the galpon so as us few could be more together, and left their things in the tent packed up ready for the bullock carts. During the night some bullock carts passing the men helping themselves to a lot of things.

Travelling by cart
There are plenty of young parrots Mr. T. often shoots some, and mother stews them up. At last they procure 3 carts but the women are to go and luggage and the men come afterwards, so we had to be pretty tightly packed. There was mother and Charlie and Lilly and myself, Mrs. Brownlow and 2 children, and 2 more children in one small cart. First in goes the luggage and then we sit on the top and a man to drive the bullock, he has a stick and a nail in the end so if he does not go fast enough he pokes him with the stick. The cart is covered over with tarpaulin.

Howling wild beasts
At last we start, the first time we stop is in the evening, and then we make a large fire and cook something to eat and when we have finished we prepare for the night by piling up the fire with pieces of trees, and then we brought out a rug to lie down on, and something for a pillow. After we had been asleep for a little while we woke up and had to get into the cart for the howling of the wild beasts—in fact we felt rather afraid, but the man slept outside for he did not mind. The next morning we travel on again after some refreshment.

Upset cart
The roads out in these parts are very rough, up and down hill. We was going down rather a rough road when I was sitting nearest the wheel, when the cart went all one side and a large box came rolling down on me. Mother really thought my back was broken, but I think we all must have got very hardened to the ups and downs, for it was a wild life.

Threats at knife point
After a little while we pass a small stream of water, and the man carried us all across. The bullocks do not like going through it very much, but they have to. We are again thinking of camping but as we looked a little way before us, we saw some more carts and as we passed them Mrs. Brownlow saw they had her kettle and pots and several things that had been stolen from her tent. There was about 12 men and she shook her fist at them and they came around the cart with long knives. We was so afraid they would stab us all, and then our driver went a long way away from them and we passed the 9 carts that started sometime before we did.

Sold wedding ring to buy food
So we camped for the night just beyond them, and when we got there we had not had anything to eat, and not any money to buy any with, but we made a fire, and then some natives, pretty well to do, came and brought us some milk. They had a farm just where we was stopping, was just outside Asunction, and mother and me went in the town, such as it was, and tried to sell her wedding ring that my father gave her, to buy us some food, and she sold it for 10 pence.

Another bad experience
We still stop outside the town until we go in the train to be shipped. When we was in the train, it was just like being in cattle trucks, and a poor woman Mrs. Slater tried to jump out of the window, because her son Mathew was gone away with some natives. They had to hold [her] back or she would have got out.

At last we have got to the shipping place and we go on board a ship and sail for Rosario, a weeks voyage. We shall be glad when it is over, for the ship is so full.

Safety at last
At last we arrive, and go in a home until the husbands arrive, as they are to come by the next ship. Then the clergyman takes a house for several families to go in, and supplies us with food. My poor mother is taken ill that she has to go to the hospital, and Lilly and myself go too, for Mr. G. has not yet arrived. The nurses in the hospital are very kind to us, the clergyman comes and brings mother some Menephacy wine.

© The form of presentation is the copyright of Jeremy Howat, February 2007, October 2010

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