Gabriel was born on a tobacco plantation in Henrico, the property of one Thomas Prosser, in 1776. He grew up an intelligent young fellow, able to read and write. By the age of ten, he was learning to become a blacksmith.
Not much is known of Gabriel’s early years, or his family. By the time he was a young man of 22, he stood 6 foot 2 or so, and was big and muscular. Everyone said he was a natural born leader of men.
It was at this time, in 1798 that old man Prosser died, leaving Brookfield Plantation to his son, Thomas Henry Prosser. Young Tom was a cruel and ambitious taskmaster, and despised by his slaves.
Prosser was in the habit, even though it was frowned apon, of hiring out a number of his slaves to merchants and shopkeepers in the city of Richmond. Two of the slaves were Gabriel and his brother, Solomon.
It wasn’t long before Gabriel was allowed to hire himself out for money, and he got to know a number of freemen, other slaves and many working-class whites. They were even socializing at the local grog shops together.
The socializing and hanging out in the grog shops soon stopped when wealthy whites complained to the local authorities. A law was passed, the shops were raided by the militia, and the drinking together ceased.
But by this time, Gabriel had come under the influence of free slaves, the recent rebellion in Saint Dominique, and the rhetoric of radical white artisans, championing the rights of the poor working class. He listened with great interest.
Being that Gabriel was an intelligent man, he naturally started to develope his own revolutionary leanings. He began to think more and more of freedom, and all it would give him.
The thought of becoming prosperous, owning property and being on equal footing with other free men became his obsession. He didn’t realize that his chance at freedom would come so quickly, or that it would be because of a pig.