In June 1783, John McKinney, schoolmaster for the one room schoolhouse in pioneer Lexington, was attacked by a wildcat in his classroom. Having gone to school early to copy out the articles of peace signed by the United States and Britain, he left the door to the schoolhouse open. He was disturbed by noise in the classroom, and looked up to see a wildcat, in the building. Making his presence known to the animal in hopes of scaring it away, he was surprised animal kept creeping toward him. He began to worry that the animal was mad, and went to reach for a ruler to throw at it, when the beast attacked.
The cat bite McKinney once on the shoulder, dug its teeth deep in McKinney’s side, all while its claws tore at him. McKinney beat at the animal with his arms and hands but was unable to dislodge it. Out of ideas, he wrapped his arms around the animal tightly in a bear hug, and pinned the animal against the side of the desk.
His cries for help sent Elizabeth Patterson and Martha Masterson, rushing into the building. “What is the matter?” They asked. He replied, “Don’t be alarmed ladies. It’s only that I have caught a cat.” While the animal was dead, its fangs were still hooked into McKinney’s ribs. By this time several people has rushed to his aid, but he would not allow any of them to touch the cat, for fear it carried some disease. He walked to the stockade for assistance, were several men helped him remove the animals teeth from his side. From that day forward, he was known as “Wildcat” McKinney.