In 1834 appears in the historical records perhaps the first individual member of the Gringai people of the Williams Valley that can be identified by name. He was called Wong-ko-bi-kan, and was also known as Jackey. By this period settlers and their sheep had occupied much of the narrow Williams River valley and the Gringai people found their camps within easy reach of these newcomers. According to newspaper and court accounts the spearing of a number of sheep inspired a group of shepherds to make an armed approach early one morning of a camp thought to be of the sheep killers.
In the confusion that morning a spear was thrown and a man named John Flynn hit. Not being immediately disabled Flynn walked some 20 miles to Paterson where soon after being seen by a doctor he died. At the time of the spearing chase was given and Wong-ko-bi-kan was apprehended as the only person who could have thrown the spear. The remarkable thing about this case is not that a fight should have broken out, or that a person was killed and another arrested for it. But that generally sympathy seemed to lay with Wong-ko-bi-kan.
Wong-ko-bi-kan’s trial, with the Rev Threlkeld acting as interpreter, was held in Newcastle, to which he was brought in chains on a steamer. Newspapers report that many, including the judge, saw the actions of the shepherds in approaching the Gringai camp the way they did as provocative and Wong-ko-bi-kan’s actions as understandable.
Despite this sympathy Wong-ko-bi-kan was trapped within the mechanisms of British justice and the only result of the judge’s sympathy was that instead of being hanged he was sentenced to transportation, in this case to Van Diemen’s Land:
‘Jackey, an aboriginal native, convicted of the manslaughter of John Flynn, at William’s River, … to be transported out of the colony for the term of his natural life. The unhappy creature seemed totally unconscious of what was passing while he was being sentenced to perpetual exile.’
Wong-ko-bi-kan is reported to have died less than two months later in His Majesty’s Colonial Hospital Van Diemen’s Land on October 29th, 1834.