Backstory and Context
Spring Park is the closest modern fixture to the historical Young’s Springs where Gabriel Prosser was elected as the leader of the largest slave rebellion in Virginia history, later dubbed Gabriel’s Rebellion. On August 10, 1800, enslaved men from cities and towns surrounding Richmond, Virginia met at Young’s Springs to plan an organized rebellion in order to gain their freedom.
Gabriel, a 24 year old, six feet and two inches tall, enslaved blacksmith from the Brookfield Plantation in Henrico County, Virginia, was considered to be of above-average intellect and was literate. This, coupled with his history of being a fairly outspoken slave, was what caused the other enslaved men involved in the plot to elect him as ‘General of the Rebel Army.’ During the meeting at Young’s Springs that made Prosser the leader, he proposed a revolt of a more organized sort than was previously seen in history.
Prosser proposed that the slaves, armed with pikes made by slave blacksmiths like himself and swords, should overtake the capitol, Richmond. After seizing control of Richmond, Prosser planned to convince then-governor James Monroe to support political, economic, and social rights on equal footing of whites. The attendees of this meeting decided to implement their plan on August 30, 1800. Unfortunately, the weather that day did not permit. Severe thunderstorms prevented participants in the ‘Rebel Army’ from being able to march on Richmond. Prosser rescheduled for the next day, but it was too late. Two slaves involved, Tom and Pharaoh, informed their master at Meadow Farm, Mosby Sheppard, of the plot. Sheppard in turn informed Governor Monroe of the plot.
Governor Monroe mobilized the Virginia militia to secure the capital. Hearing of this, Gabriel Prosser and some of his compatriots fled down the Chickahominy River. However, the state of Virginia had placed a $300 bounty on his head. On September 14, 1800, Prosser swam through the James River to board the schooner Mary. Once on board, he was recognized by the captain’s, Richardson Taylor, slave named Billy. Upon the docking of the ship, Billy reported Prosser to authorities in order to receive the $300 reward to buy his own freedom, but only received $30.
Gabriel Prosser, upon his capture, was tried along with more than twenty other rebels for conspiracy in the Henrico County Court. He was found guilty, and hung at the Gallows on October 10, 1800, exactly two months after the initial meeting at Young’s Springs, now Spring Park.
Newafrikan77. Gabriel Prosser's Young's Spring and Spring Park Historic Site. Wordpress. Accessed February 25, 2018. https://newafrikan77.wordpress.com/2016/05/13/gabriel-prosser-youngs-spring-and-spring-park-historic-site/.
United States Department of the Interior National Park Service. Joseph Bryan Park. DHR Virginia. October 04, 2002. Accessed February 25, 2018. https://www.dhr.Virginia.gov/registers/Cities/Richmond/127-5677_Joseph_Bryan_Park_2002_Final_Nomination.pdf. PDF Form
Nicholls, Michael L. Whispers of Rebellion: Narrating Gabriel's Conspiracy. Carter G. Woodson Institute Series. Charlottesville, Virginia. University of Virginia Press, 2012.