Tracing my family gift and the story of my Aunt Peggy York

Tracing my family gift back in time, I did a lot of research and recalled family stories of my Aung Peg. Her real name was Mary Mae York, but she was known as “Peggy York” and she had quite a career as a psychic medium.

Aunt Mary (“Peggy” or “Peg” as she was called by everyone) was a psychic of whom we knew only a few stories until I was able to research her life in depth. Having migrated to California with the rest of the family from Kansas after their home was knocked down for the second or third time from huge tornadoes, she was the one the rest of the family held back from and, to be honest, she scared the hell out of them with her uncanny abilities. To be honest, I think her gift scared her family because they couldn’t get away with lying to her. Being a black sheep was her lot in life.

When Mary married her first husband, he nicknamed her “Peg” and it stuck. From then on, the family called her by that nickname. She was a unique and beautiful woman who lived life by her own terms and not by convention that others wished her to live by. It’s a rather common story with our family… We are a bunch of rebels at heart and do not follow social convention or politically correct talk. We speak our minds and say what we feel to be the truth.

Peg’s gift was a source of controversy with my own grandparents because of her bent for the spiritual. It was common family knowledge that she was gifted with second sight. In fact, her entire family of sixteen family members absolutely feared her abilities as she detailed in one of the interviews I found in my research.

As her father was a Methodist Minister, her gift was seen as something to be suspicious of. My grandfather used the minister title for a cover. He was actually a “Grandfather Agent” in the FBI and is something of a hero in the agency. They called him “The Old Man” and his cases are still celebrated at the academy. We didn’t realize how well regarded he was until we came into contact with agents who, upon hearing his name in discussions, practically fell over themselves to tell us what a hero the guy was.

Only Peg’s maternal Cherokee grandmother (who had the gift as well) and later, one sibling, supported her throughout the ordeal of her having to come to terms with her gift. My great-grandfather was a good man, but his fear of her gifts led him to nearly commit her to a mental institution. Fortunately he was not able to do that to Peg. I suspect the Grandmother’s stepped in and held sway on the matter.

Thomas Russel York

Peg’s husband, Thomas “Russell” York, died in a tragic accident in 1946 in the town of Washington, California (near Nevada City in Northern California) after an earthquake shook logs off a lumber trailer at the logging camp he worked at and one large log landed on top of him. It was a devastating accident.

Russell died hours later in surgery with a part of one of the logs embedded in him being removed and he bled to death in the operating room, leaving behind Aunt Peg and their children in June of 1946. Russel lived long enough for the hour or so after the accident to get his legal matters attended to and to say goodbye to the family.

My mother, who was a child at the time, witnessed the accident. She teared up whenever she recounted what she saw at that innocent picnic day turned tragic when they all saw their beloved Uncle mortally wounded in that terrible accident. In my research I did find the news articles of the logging accident but no reference to the earthquake and trust that my mother’s remembrance of this is correct. She said the chains broke as the quake rocked the truck and trailer to and fro and poor Russell had no time to get away.

My mother said that not long after his death, Mary seem to have more firmly embraced her psychical and likely mediumship gifts. Like so many in our family with the Sight, adversity seemed to have created the conditions by which we followed our explorations of the Other Side. In my mind and in listening to the stories of my mother coupled with the research into Peg’s life, I can only imagine Mary wishing to get through to Russell. It is my belief that she did so and developed her skills from then on with reading people.

Peg lived in the northern California town of Chico and then moved to Sacramento and surrounding cities for the remainder of her long life with her children before she passed on. My mother was very fond of Aunt Peg and my great-Aunt seemed to know my mother had a little something extra too. My mother’s gifts were beginning to show early in life and by all accounts, Peg would have been more than aware of what my mother could do and would do later in life. All of my mother’s sisters had the gift as well. Many of my cousins all have it as well. It is not something seen as unusual and we grew up knowing the Spirit World was a reality and knowing about the Sight.

Thus, Peg made an impression in my mother’s memory that lasted a lifetime. Mom always thought wistfully of what might have been had she been able to get to know her more as a young adult. As it was, only the early childhood and teenage years afforded some knowledge of this extraordinary woman who dedicated herself to the world of Spirit and Psychic Mediumship at a time when the subject was looked at askance by the so-called “experts”.

It took great courage for Peg to buck the trends. She was very much  made of strong stuff to carry on and endure despite the climate against spiritual work like psychic mediumship. Her work  with psychic-mediumship thus launched from the mid-1940s on through the 1980s when she finally retired from professional mediumship and readings.

Aunts and Uncles: Joe, Wilma, John, Peggy, Mary Crawford, Bessie (my grandmother), Edith Ted, Grandpa William N. McHenry is behind Peg on the right. Peg is in the foreground.

Whenever the subject of psychics and mediumship came up in our family discussions, Peg’s name was not far behind along with stories of her sisters. Mom told me, in the research for this book, that one of Peg’s sisters had been around for a lot of the spiritual and mediumship work, but all of these aunts have passed on and we only have our conjecture to work from in knowing who it was and how much actually had gone on all those years ago and who the mystery sister was that worked with her.

My grandmother, Bessie who was Peg’s sister along with all but one of the Aunts strongly disapproved of Peg’s work in the field of psychic work. When my mother’s early abilities began to surface with her own astral travels to the old family farm in Kansas with accurate descriptions of the patterned kitchen and unique layout of the ranch house (which she had never seen before), my grandmother reacted in horror and leaned into my mother’s face and shrieked “You will never speak of these things again!” and with that, she shut down my mother’s open investigation of the Unknown.

Some of our family felt that my grandmother might not have had the gift but it is my feeling that Grandma did indeed have the Sight along with others in the immediate family who were more scared of their own spiritual gifts than Peg. Peg alone embraced them with help from her Cherokee Grandmother. The family religious upbringing collided directly with the acknowledgement of these powers of the mind and it was social convention that won out over being true to themselves and trusting that God gives these abilities to people for good reasons.

My grandmother thus studiously kept any discussion of things psychic or mediumship related firmly silenced from that day forward. The upshot of it was that she refused to allow any of her five daughters to explore the paranormal and spiritual world in an open manner. The Other Side does have it’s darker sides so who knows what she ran into with her own gifts? Still, it does not do to characterize an entire ocean by one bad experience at the beach. I feel very lucky to have been able to explore openly when my own gifts unfolded before me and I did not have to deal with a family who stigmatized me for having the gift from the beginning.

My Grandmother  was not entirely successful in tamping down the gift in her daughters, most of whom are incredibly psychic. Although I miss my grandmother terribly since her own death in May of 1995, I wish she had kept an open mind to the subject. Oddly enough, with my Grandmother Bess’s passing, she came to me in a dream and said goodbye in her own wonderful way and I’ve only picked up on her spirit a few times since. So, in death, she embraced the spirit world despite her initial reservations of it in life but she remain a difficult spirit to connect with even when I try to reach her.

The last time my mother saw Aunt Peg alive was in the late 1950s, Peg had signed some paperwork for my Grandfather concerning a legal matter after he lost some needed papers for his retirement. He had to rely on Peg’s testimony and help. He really didn’t like Peg that much but had to ask for her help to save his pension dreams. Peg, in return, saw right through my grandfather and it unnerved the hell out of him. You cannot fool a medium, or if you do, you won’t for long. Peg had his number and he knew it.

During that last visit, my mother (who was a  teenager at the time) wanted to talk more with Aunt Peg and get to know more about her. It was not to be. My grandparents would have none of Peg getting more time with Mom to talk and he sent Peg on her way once the business was done. Mom never saw Peg again and we only heard about her death sometime in the mid 1990s after her long career of being a professional medium in and around Northern California. Peg’s daughter came to visit Mom a few times in the 1980s and we heard from her son, now and again but lost touch after 1990 or so

Later on, as I researched my Aunt Peg’s life I found she had her regrets at having the Sight. She said in an interview once that only one of her sisters would recognize her and the rest treated her like an outcast. In her own words “My family thought I was goofy. You can imagine what people thought when I began to see my big Indian” who was one of her Spirit Guides. “My family did not believe. If it hadn’t been for my grandmother, I don’t know where I’d be.” In a 1980 interview, Peg shared that her psychic grandmother was part Cherokee and that the gift came from her side of the family.

Ultimately embracing her gift became to a conscious decision for Mary and she said “I never had the closeness with my family because of my psychic ability. You have to make a decision between your family and being of service to others, to use your gift.” Only one of her sons and a step-daughter gave her any credence in believing in her gift and abilities. My mother shared the impression with me that she recalled that Peg’s daughter was as intuitive as her Mother but we may never knew if the daughter had carried on with or seriously used the gift.

Aunt Peg always used the term “psychic” to define herself by but in the interviews I read, she spoke of seeing “spiritual people walking” and I figured out very quickly that she was indeed a Medium. She obviously couched her gifts in terms that were more socially acceptable given the prejudices of the times she lived in, but the signs were there that she dealt with spirit entities in much the same manner many modern Mediums do. If you are seeing spirits and having detailed discussions with your guides, you are a Medium!

Peg won the 1983 and 1984 Psychic Award of the year in Sacramento where she practiced and lived. She did psychic readings, was one heck of a good psychometry psychic (ability to read objects). She undoubtedly did mediumship readings as well along with aura readings of the human energy field. She was a huge proponent of meditation for personal development and taught it to people during her many travels. I share many of the same gifts she had and this feel very close to her after having gotten to know her through the records and research I did.

In my research on her, I found that Peg barnstormed across the U.S. from the early 1970s into the mid 1980s on a multi-year psychic tour that launched her into some level of fame. She also attracted a lot of skeptics in the press who lost no time in attacking her. After about ten years of doing this work she slowed down and then eventually dropped out of site in the mid-1980s. I do think the years of traveling the U.S. doing public readings did get to her and it may well be that some of the negative articles may have some level of truth. No one can be “On” as a psychic all the time. It’s not healthy to do and it takes one being extra careful with their energy and health to sustain constant reading work. I suspect she hit a point where she realized she couldn’t keep it up and got off the mediumship circuit for that reason.

She said in the last interview she did in 1976 that if she “abused the gift if would be taken away“. I think that was another factor in reducing her readings to something more manageable. I found traces of her advertising for clients in a more low-key manner and she was active right up to her final years. She was playing it smart in my opinion.

Peg went on the read for famous people like Frank Sinatra and famous politicians like senators and local celebrities and power players in Sacramento and San Francisco. She was very well regarded in the psychic medium communities of the time given her awards and professional respect she had earned. It seems she did save her gift and used it wisely for the readings that mattered.

I was shocked to learn in my research on Peg that we literally lived just a matter of 10 to 20 miles or so from her during my childhood. I now deeply regret I was never able to connect with her and get to know her. I was smack in the middle of my own experiences with the Other Side at that time and a family member with those skills would sure have been handy to have around. It was just not in the cards for us. The old family taboos interfered too much.

Peg died in 1993 after a long career of reading people both ordinary and famous. The courage she showed in following her dreams in spite of the pressures of family and society was extraordinary. In my research on her life, I was surprised to learn of yet another American Indian connection in my family with me already having Ottowa, Ojibwe and Eastern Sioux in my bloodline. Now I can add Cherokee to the mix. I do feel that the gift came down from multiple bloodlines, but it is clear that the majority of it came from my Peg’s family line and my grandmother passed it down to her daughters and… ultimately, to me and many of my cousins.

Peg is buried with her husband, Russel York in Paradise California. She was a trailblazer and very courageous and thus earned a page here on my site to record an extraordinary life lived.