Born: January 31, 1845, Lynchburg, Virginia.
Died: February 26, 1924, Chicago, Illinois.
Cremated: Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois.
Pseudonym: Lois Catesby.
Lydia was the daughter of Benjamin Franklin Avery and suffragist Susan Howes Look. Born into a wealthy family, she became an heiress to the Avery Plow Works fortune.
She married twice: to John Clark Coonley (1867, Louisville, Kentucky) and Henry Augustus Ward (1897, Chicago, Illinois).
Coonley is remembered as a social leader, clubwoman and writer. She belonged to many social groups, including the Chicago Women’s Club (she was its president 1895–96), the Cordon Society, the Society of Midland Authors, the Fortnightly, and the Little Room.
She let her house be used as a summer school for aspiring artists and teachers, and hosted plays at her home. She was also a sponsor of the Free Library in Wyoming, New York.
After her re-marriage, to Henry Ward, she helped him grow his meteorite collection.
Coonley began writing for the Home and Farm newspaper in 1878, under the name of Lois Catesby. She also wrote for the Wyoming Reporter. Her other works include:
Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling-place
Through generations past;
Before the mountains were brought forth,
While earth was chaos vast;
Thou art from everlasting known
To everlasting—God alone.
A thousand years within Thy sight
Are but as yesterday
When it is past—or like a watch
That measureth night away.
As with a flood Thou carriest them,
They are as sleep that falls on men.
Like grass are they, that flourishing,
In morning hours is found;
At eventide it is cut down,
And withereth on the ground.
Thine anger doth our souls consume,
Thy wrath doth fill our hearts with gloom.
Our days are three-score years and ten;
Like oft-told tale those years.
Though strength should fore-score number them,
They are but work and tears;
For life is soon cut off, and then,
We fly, and know not where or when.
So teach, us Lord, to count our days
That we find wisdom’s heart.
Return! with mercy satisfy!
Let gladness be our part.
According to our time of fears,
May we rejoice through all our years.
Unto Thy servants’ eyes, dear Lord,
Let all Thy work appear;
Thy glory to their children show,
That love may conquer fear.
Our handiwork do Thou make strong,
And let Thy beauty be our song.
Lydia Arms Avery Coonley Ward
Under the Pines, 1895