New Hampshire Philanthropist, Civic and Patriotic Leader, Community Benefactor: Mary Ward (Lyon) Cheney Schofield of Peterborough

Photograph of Mary (Lyon) Cheney Schofield from One Thousand New Hampshire Notables. Internet Archive

It is entirely fitting that my first biographical post of 2020 is about a woman.  Not just any woman, but a remarkable one.   She was born into an privileged family and life. She could have spent her life focused on self-indulgence.  Instead she was ever busy helping others–women, veterans, her community, her state and her church.

She was born Mary Ward Lyon, on 28 December 1868, daughter of Dr. Edwin Bradbury & Charlotte M. (Ward) Lyon in New Britain Connecticut.  Her father was an educator-turned-physician, and a Civil War veteran.  She was a direct descendant of George Lyon of Dorchester, Massachusetts.

She graduated from Dana Hall school, Wellesley, Massachusetts, and was a student for two years at Wellesley College.  [The Lyons Family genealogy states she worked briefly as a school teacher].  She left college to marry Charles Paine Cheney of Boston and Wellesley, son of Benjamin Pierce Cheney, the express company pioneer. Their marriage took place April 27, 1893.

Photograph from Cheney Genealogy, compiled by Charles Henry Pope, 1897. Internet Archive.

Charles Paine Cheney was an 1892 graduate of Harvard College, who published the following notice about him: “Charles Paine Cheney died from general tuberculosis at Colorado Springs, Colo. Feb 3. He was born in Boston Dec. 20, 1869. He prepared for Harvard at St. Paul’s School, Concord NH. Throughout the College course he took an active but unobtrusive interest in the social and athletic life. He rowed two years on the Class crew. He belonged to the Institute of 1770, the D.K.E., the Hasty Pudding Club, and the Alpha Delta Phi. April 29 1893 he married Mary Ward Lyon at New Britain Conn. In September of that year he became a junior partner in the banking house of Blodgett, Merritt & Co. of Boston. He was apparently in good health up to August 1896, when, after a prolonged business trip through the West, he became much run down, was finally compelled to relinquish work and go to Colorado Springs. His wife and three children survive him.”

Mary (Lyon) Cheney and her husband, Charles Paine Cheney’s three children were:

Photograph of Charles Ward Cheney from a 1916 U.S. Passport.

1. Charles Ward Cheney,  born 28 April 1894 at Boston MA, and died December 24, 1973. WWI Service : 20 July 1917 he enlisted as a Private in the 14th Engineers (Railway), which July 27 sailed from the U.S., Aug. 15 paraded through London, and Aug. 21 arrived at the front, six miles south of Arras, attached to the British as Light Railway Troops. March 21, 1918, in the Somme defensive, Army Troops. June 10 transferred to the Light Railway HQ., General HQ., A.E.F. Oct. 1 commissioned 2nd Lieutenant, Engineers, and Feb. 13, 1919, 1st Lieutenant. Apr. 6 returned to the U.S., and Apr. 12,was discharged. He attended Chateau de Lancy in Switzerland and St. Mark’s School, graduating cum laude in 1917 from Harvard with a degree in

Photograph of Col. Ruth Cheney Streeter. From U.S. Naval Academy.

economics.  He married 17 March 1920 in Boston MA to Sylvie Burt Howell, daughter of George D. & Grace (Hurd) Howell.  He was a certified accountant. For a while after his marriage they lived in South America, where he represented the United States Steel Products Company. In 1942 employed by Charles H. Foster & Co. Boston MA.  He is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.  [His children: Grace Hurd Cheney, b 28 Oct 1922 Concord MA. She married Max Mannheimer; Ruth Cheney b 9 Aug 1925, graduated Concord Academy and Vassar. She married Franklin Wyman Jr; Elizabeth Stickney Cheney born 21 July 1928 in Concord MA. She married in January 1955 at Christ Church Cambridge MA to to John Herbert Woodruff, son of Herbert Arthur Woodruff of Redlands California.]
2. Ruth Cheney, born 2 Oct 1895, and died 30 Sep 1990, aged 94. She married Thomas W. Streeter.  1918 graduate of Bryn Mawr. She was the top-ranking woman in the Marine Corps in WW2. She was the first director of the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve in 1943 (they were the last of the services to include women) She retired as a colonel in 1946. Children: [All served during WW2, ie] Frank S.Streeter, Ensign, U.S.N.R. on a subchaser; Henry S. Streeter, Ensign, U.S.N.R. on a destroyer; and Thomas W. Streeter Jr., U.S.A. in the enlisted reserves on duty in Washington D.C., also Lilian Carpenter Streeter of Morristown NJ.  In 1927, in conjunction with her mother, Mary (Lyon) Cheney Schofield, she established the Cheney Award that is presented by the U.S. Air Force to an airman for an act of valor, extreme fortitude or self-sacrifice in a

Lieut. William Halsall Cheney

humanitarian interest, performed in connection with aircraft, but not necessarily of a military nature. The award was created to honor the memory of  Lieut. William Halsall Cheney (see next entry).
3. William Halsall Cheney,  born 15 Jan 1897 Colorado Springs CO; Lieut Aviation Corps AEF killed in Italy 20 Jan 1918 (Foggia, Puglia, Italy, Aviation Camp, Accidental Death.) He was at first buried Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno, Genoa Italy.  Two years later his remains were removed and were eventually placed in the crypt of All Saints Episcopal Church in Peterborough NH to lie beside his parents.

A newspaper notice published at the time of Mary’s death states: “ Mrs. Schofield first came to Peterborough [New Hampshire] in 1892 as a guest in the Cheney family, and for the remainder of her life spent some part of every year here. In 1895 she and her husband and two children came here to spend their summers in a cottage on the Cheney estate, and the year following started the construction of their summer home, East Hill, one of the show places of New Hampshire. Mr. Cheney died February 3, 1897, before the new home was finished, but his widow and the family continued to come here summers for many years.”

Photograph of William H. Schofield from his U.S. Passport.

On September 4, 1907, the widow, Mary (Lyon) Cheney married in Peterborough New Hampshire to William Henry Schofield of Cambridge, Mass., head of the department of comparative literature at Harvard University, son of William Henry & Susanna Wesley “Anna” (Parkser) Schofield. (His father was a clergyman).  William was born 6 April 1870 Brockville, Ont. [Lanark, Ontario] Canada. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States. His educational background is as follows: Victoria College, B.A. 1889; Harvard University PhD 1895; Professor of Comparative Literature Harvard University, 1906–20; Harvard Exchange Professor at University of Berlin, 1907; Lecturer at the Sorbonne and University of Copenhagen, 1910. Harvard Exchange Professor at Western Colleges, 1918. Professor Schofield died on June 24, 1920 in Peterborough, New Hampshire.  He is buried in the All Saints’ Crypt with his wife.

Photograph of Mrs. Mary (Lyon) Schofield from her U.S. Passport.

As for Mary (Lyon) Cheney Schofield, the remainder of this article is dedicated to her.  Her obituary, published in a Peterborough NH newspaper contained the following information: “In all the years since her children grew up, Mrs. Schofield was extremely active in literally hundreds of organizations, local, state and national, and was rewarded by appointments to many leading offices. She was the first chairman for New Hampshire of the woman’s department of the National Civic Federation from 1916-1919, chairman of the New Hampshire Woman’s Liberty Loan Committee during the First World War; national president of the Women’s Land Army of America during World War I; organized the first training camp in the state for women agricultural workers; and served as chairman of the first war emergency training courses in New Hampshire under the women’s committee of the Council of National Defense.    Long active in patriotic organizations, Mrs. Schofield founded an “Our Boys’ Club” here in 1917, a group which later formed the nucleus of the Auxiliary of the William H. Cheney Post No 5, American Legion, named for her son who was killed in a plane crash at the American Aviation Camp in Foggia, Italy, January 20, 1918.  She recently organized a second group of this nature, “Our Boys’ Club No 2,” for wives and kin of men now serving under arms, and was the moving spirit in the activities of this organization which has been in existence during the last year.   Mrs. Schofield had always been active in the affairs of the American Legion Auxiliary, twice serving as chairman for the distinguished guests at National Auxiliary conventions, and was selected to participate in the visit of the second A.E.F. to Europe in 1927. At that time, she addressed the Gold Star Mothers from the Eiffel Tower in Paris. She was national chairman of FIDAC and was for years a prominent figure at state and national legion conventions. She also served as the first president of the Auxiliary unit of the William H. Cheney Post in 1920 and 1921.   Mrs. Schofield continued her interest along patriotic lines in the second World War. Organizations began their drive for funds last year, and she accepted the chairmanship for women of the New England states. She was also woman’s chairman for New Hampshire of the Navy League, and had recently provided funds for furnishing the library at Camp Langdon in the Portsmouth Harbor defenses.     Closely identified with Republican party activities, she served in 1919 as the first chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Women’s committee. Five years later she received the honor of being named the first woman president of the New Hampshire Electoral College and the same year was a delegate-at-large to her party’s national convention. Although she never held a public office, she served on many special state committees and recently, by appointment of Governor Blood, was a member of a committee to allocate among New Hampshire charities the receipts of Charity Day at the Rockingham race track.   For many years she took a keen interest in the development of nursery schools and established here in 1925 the first nursery school in northern New England. She had previously attended the Wheelock Kindergarten school and its nursery school in Boston, and been a student at the graduate school of education at Harvard. The University of New Hampshire gave her the honorary degree of master of arts in 1929, and on the university’s 75th anniversary in 1941 was a member of the honorary degree holders’ committee. She also had been president of the New Hampshire division of the American Association of University Women. From 1919 to 1924, she was secretary of the board of trustees for the New Hampshire School for the Feeble Minded.   Mrs. Schofield had been president of the state branch of the Girls’ Friendly Society, and was chairman in 1931 of the state women’s committee for the Washington Cathedral. She served on the New Hampshire women’s committee of the New York World’s Fair, and was one of the few women invited to preside over the exercises at the fair in celebration of its State’s Day.   Mrs. Schofield was a long-time contributor to many movements and enterprises in her home town and an active figure in their promotion. She was the donor of the first Peterborough Golf club house in 1902; gave the commons of the Brantwood Camp for Boys in 1905; and built and presented to the Diocese of New Hampshire the beautiful All Saints’ Episcopal Church, parish house and rectory, on Concord street, which was completed in 1925. She was one of the prime movers in providing the memorial gates between the Town House and Historical building erected at the close of the first World War. She was a past president of the Progressive club, since named the Peterborough Woman’s club, and annually gave a luncheon to the Past President’s group.    One of her particular hobbies was the purchase, beautification and development of local real estate areas. Her interest along this line was centered principally in the area near the junction

Photograph of “Beside Still Waters” house of Mrs. Mary (Lyon) Schofield, located at 3 River Street [formerly Water Street]. Built in 1927 with additions in 1951, designed by Boston architect Edwin Goodell from New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources.

of Main, Union and High streets on both sides of the Nubanusit river. She bought up the one-time Peterborough bank shop property at the head of Main street, improving it for home-owning purposes, purchased the former Alvin Townsend house and rebuilt the structure into what is now known as the Manse, developed the park adjoining the waterfalls, one of the most sightly spots in this section, and in 1927 constructed her home adjoining the waterfalls and which she named Beside Still Waters. This was her residence for the remainder of her life, she having disposed of her former property at East Hill in 1935 to the Kendall Hall School for Girls. She also maintained a summer home at Dorval, P.Q.     About 10 years ago Mrs. Schofield and her daughter, Mrs. Thomas W. Streeter, established what was known as the Cheney Award, to be given annually to a member or members of the U.S. Army Air Corps for acts of unusual valor and self-sacrifice. This was in memory of their son and brother, William H. Cheney. Some of the awards were presented at the White House, and others by leading officers of the army and air corps. One of the early recipients was Col. William A. Matheny, who led the air-raid on Wake Island December 24 last.   Mrs. Schofield was honorary president of the New Hampshire Society of Colonial Dames of America, and among her club affiliations were the Lyceum of London, the Colony of New York City, the Chilton and Mayflower of Boston, and the Monteregian of Montreal.   In 1927 in conjunction with her daughter,  Ruth Cheney Streeter, she established the Cheney Award that is presented by the U.S. Air Force to an airman for an act of valor, extreme fortitude or self-sacrifice in a humanitarian interest, performed in connection with aircraft, but not necessarily of a military nature.”

Photograph of All Saints Church, taken in 2011 by J.W. Brown.

Mary (Lyon) Cheney Schofield died on 10 January 1943 in Peterborough NH, aged 74. She was buried on 13 Jan 1943, All Saints Church Crypt, Peterborough NH. The funeral services were conducted by Rt. Rev. John T. Dallas of Concord, Bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese, assisted by Rev. James E. McKee, rector of the church. Music was by the augmented choir of the church, with Florence M. Hancock as organist. The ushers were members of the William H. Cheney Post of the American Legion, under the direction of Francis B. Donovan, head usher, and Theodore W. Gunn, junior warden. In uniform were Harry Wright, Dwight T. Dart, Harry F. Smith, Charles G. O’Connor and Howard L. Whitcomb. The body was placed in the crypt of the church with a group of 10 legionnaires serving as bearers.  Attendees at the funeral included family, friends and members of organizations at the local, state and national levels.


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3 Responses to New Hampshire Philanthropist, Civic and Patriotic Leader, Community Benefactor: Mary Ward (Lyon) Cheney Schofield of Peterborough

  1. Elizabeth C Woodruff says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article. My mother always told me great stories about her beloved Granny Coco, and I always knew my great grandmother had achieved a great deal in her life and was a force to be reckoned with. You have now given me some new information for which I am truly grateful.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Elizabeth, your great grandmother was an amazing woman. I’m glad if I was able to provide you with new information. A family’s story is so important. I would like to think that we inherit wonderful traits from those who went before us.

  2. Amy Willey says:

    Thank you so much for this incredibly detailed article. I have been affiliated with Brantwood Camp for over 40 years and knew that Mrs. Cheney Schofield provided funds very early in the camp’s history for a kitchen/dining hall (Commons) but, other than the fact that her son William was killed during WWI, never knew much about her life beyond that. This was such a great read and I’m eager to share it with other Brantwood alums who will be interested in learning more about her.

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