1 January 1742
Asa Waters I
Gunsmith and Father of
Asa Waters II
Nathaniel Waters (1671-1718) of Salem, in the year 1715, bought three thousand acres of the wilderness,
within the territory that was to become the town of Sutton, but, dying three years later, he probably never lived
here, and his land was divided between his two sons, Nathaniel, Jr., and Jonathan (1715-1786), who had farms
in the north part of the township.
The home farm of the latter was on the east side of the road leading from Singletary Pond to West Millbury at
the east end of the village. Probably the site of the first house is marked by an old well. The present dwelling
stands nearly opposite where a road branches to the westward. There for four generations lived a Jonathan
They were descended from James Waters, an iron monger and citizen of London who died in that city and
was buried in St. Botolph's parish, February 2, 1617, leaving a widow, Phoebe, daughter of George Manning,
and a son, Richard. Among the manuscripts in the British Museum is a pedigree prepared by that George
Manning showing his descent through eight generations from Symon Manning, who was a crusader to the Holy
Land in the reign of Richard I and who died before 1272. The widow Phoebe Waters married a widower, William
Plasse, a gun maker of London, who had a daughter, Rejoice Plasse. This family, Mr. & Mrs. Plasse and their
two children, were in the migration that crossed the Atlantic before 1636 to the new plantation on the
Richard Waters married in London his step-sister, Rejoice Plasse. William Plasse and his step-son followed
the trade of gun making in Salem. A grandson of Richard Waters was the Nathaniel who bought Sutton land,
and a grandson of the latter, and son of the first Jonathan, was the Asa Waters who was born in the North
Parish of Sutton, January 27, 1742. He and his brother Andrus inherited the mechanical talent of their
progenitor, Richard. Both were gun makers, and were among the first to perceive the industrial possibilities of
the swiftly descending waters of Singletary brook. The two brothers established trip hammer works where the
Holbrook Mill stands, or a little below, and forged gun barrels, scythes and other iron implements.
One April night in 1775, Paul Revere’s alarm that British troops were marching out from Boston to destroy
military supplies at Concord was spread as fast as horses could travel to every town in the colony and at every
one found companies, armed, disciplined and officered, ready for the expected emergency. Like a swarm of
angry hornets marched from every town its complement of men. Sutton sent seven companies. Asa Waters was
lieutenant of a company from the north parish. The provincial troops surrounded Boston and the King’s troops
were besieged within the town. In the later part of the season he was lieutenant of Capt. Bartholomew Woodbury’
s company of Colonel Learned’s Regiment, part of the besieging force. On April 4, 1776, he was commissioned
First Lieutenant of Capt. Abjah Burbank’s 13th company of the 5th Worcester County regiment.
Armories for the manufacture of firearms were very few in the colonies at the beginning of the Revolution and,
as the importation of arms became very difficult, the work of the gun makers was therefore of the greatest value
to the American cause. The iron ore was mined at Salisbury in the northwest corner of Connecticut, the pig iron
carried across a rough country to Douglas where it was refined and thence carted to the Sutton Waters Armory
to be made into the various metallic parts which were assembled to make up the completed gun. Andrus Waters
died from exposure at the mines after two years, and was buried at West Point, with military honors, his death
lamented as a public calamity.
Asa was left to pursue the business, which he did with vigor and success. This was the first armory where
water power was employed in the making of guns.
Gun powder was as essential to the American cause as firearms as difficult to obtain. The British in Boston
could readily have dispersed their besiegers had they known how small was the supply of powder in the
American army October 18, 1776, the Massachusetts authorities appointed a committee to build a powder mill
in Sutton, and appropriated £200 from the state treasury to construct it. Asa Waters was put in charge of its
operation. The mill stood partly over the pond where the Winter store now is. A long row of pestles and mortars
extended on each of its four sides, all worked by power from the Singletary. The difficulty was in finding the
ingredients needed to make the explosive. In after years Mr. Waters was often heard to say, “that there was
hardly a barn in Worcester county under which I have not bent my back scraping up saltpeter.” He served on
committees for the raising of troops and other patriotic efforts during the war, but following the evacuation of
Boston his principal public service was in providing munitions of war, guns and gun powder.
He built himself a mansion on Elmwood Street where he lived the last twenty or thirty years of his life. In his
later years he was known as Deacon Waters. He was a large land owner and the registry of deeds shows he
sold altogether more than 800 acres. He married June 14, 1764, Sara Goodell, daughter of Capt. Samuel
Goodell of Sutton. Oil portraits of himself and his wife were exhibited at the Centennial Exhibition. He died, April
29, 1799. His grave in the West Millbury cemetery was visited in September 1912, by his great-great-grandson,
William Howard Taft, then President of the United States.