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UPDATED WITH PODCAST – Bennett purchased a large part of Tuscumbia, Alabama from profits by betting on a game of thimbles

Bennett, the Magician

(Lawrence County, Alabama)


Col. Edmond Saunders

written ca. 1890s

There was, however, in early times, a man called Dr. Bennett, who had a wonderful run with a simple game with three thimbles, placed on his knee, and a small paper ball.

He was dexterous in handling the ball, and would bet that no person could tell under which thimble the ball was left. The boys lost a good deal of their change, and even grown-up men had their curiosity excited about that tiny ball. General B. used to tell an amusing story about it.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy Lodge between Courtland and Moulton in Lawrence County. UDC met here ca. 1930s (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Met late at night to bet on a game

One night he and Mr. H., a rising lawyer, went to Bennett’s room, not to bet on the game, but just to see how it was done. Bennett very politely agreed to perform his trick for them, as they were men of high standing. He would maneuver the ball and they would guess where it was; very often successfully.

At length, he proposed to bet Mr. H. that he could not tell where the ball was. Mr. H., who had acquired confidence, from guessing correctly, put up $25, and lost it.

Bennett having tasted blood, continued to handle his thimbles, until General B. saw exactly where the ball was. He was a land dealer, and never had any money, but plenty of land; a quarter section was staked, and lost. The two gentlemen rose. Bennett, while politely lighting them down the steps, said: “Call in daytime, gentlemen, you will have better light.” “Thank you,” said the General, “we are perfectly satisfied”.

See all books and novels by Donna R. Causey

Bennett used the profits to buy considerable land around Tuscumbia

There was a perfect epidemic in the country in regard to the thimbles. The profits of Bennett were so great that he is said to have purchased a large part of the town of Tuscumbia, when an untoward event put an end to his harvest.

At Columbia, Tenn., he won from a gawk of nineteen years of age, his horse. It belonged to the boy’s father and he hesitated to deliver him to Bennett, who jerked the bridle from the boy’s hand, and carried the horse to a livery stable. He was thrown into jail on a charge of robbery. He thought light of it at first, but in a few days, he was convinced that the people were bent on having him hung. He sent for the great advocate, Mr. Grundy, and was acquitted. He invited the advocate to his room and inquired the amount of his fee. Mr. G. pulled a slip of paper from his vest pocket, and answered, “$752.10.”

“Yes, sir,” said Bennett, counting out the money and paying it over. “ And now, Mr. G., do tell me how you arrived at the fraction in the fee.” “Oh! that is very simple. I had a notion of charging you $1000, but I had falling due in the Nashville Bank a note for the amount specified.”

“ Yes, sir,” answered Bennett, “ you have relieved my mind.”

This sleight of hand knight went to the Texan war with the invincible Davy Crockett and fell bravely fighting the Mexican foe.

Excerpt from Early Settlers Of Alabama: With Notes And Genealogies (Volume 1)

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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