Mary Postell took was born the slave of a rebel officer. She escaped in the late 1770's and sought refuge within the British lines. She worked on forts and public works alongside other blacks, and was given her Certificate of Freedom. She was in Charleston at the end of the war with her husband. In the chaos, her certificate was taken from her by someone who claimed that they wanted to see her papers.
Postell then went to work in Florida as a servant for a man named Jesse Gray. Gray sold her to his brother Samuel. When Jesse Gray came back to Nova Scotia he bought her back from his brother. Quite possibly all this trading was done just to create bills of sale that could later be used to prove ownership.
Gray fled Florida and took Mary with him as he traveled to Nova Scotia. She thought that he was going to sell her when they arrived in Shelburne so she took her children and ran away. She was quickly found in Birchtown, and in the subsequent court case the precariousness of freedom for blacks became evident.
Postell found two witnesses in Birchtown who testified that she had been a slave of a rebel and had worked with them building fortifications. While they testified on her behalf, gangs of whites burned their homes, and one of their children was murdered. Gray claimed to have lost his original bill of sale from a man in Florida.
Despite all this Gray was considered to have proven his ownership. He took Mary to Argyle and sold her to William Maugham for a hundred bushels of potatoes, probably as a deliberate punishment for running away. He then sold one of her daughters to another man and kept the other as his own slave.
Mary Postell's story gives one a first hand look at how uncertain freedom was for a black in early Nova Scotia.