Gaby was a slave who belonged to James Burwell at King's Creek Plantation near the York River. King's Creek had been established by the Burwell family in the mid-17th century and had a long-settled slave population. Gaby, however, ran away. The September 15, 1768 edition of the Virginia Gazette ran an advertisement that Gaby was "outlawed, and a reward of ten pounds will be given for his head, or twenty shillings if safely delivered to James Burwell." More valued dead than alive, Gaby had run away three months earlier and was described as
"about 40 years of age, round shouldr'd, bends in one of his knees (in which I have forgot) is very subject to sore legs, has a very long foot; and had on when he left me the usual winter clothing of corn field Negroes." Burwell suspected that Gaby had been secreted by his "wife" at Mr. Robert Nicholson's in Williamsburg. The ad ran in the Gazette for five successive weeks.