Thomas Jefferson Waters was born in 1831 in White Lake, Sullivan County, New York, the son of David L. (b. 1804) and Clarinda (b. 1806).
New York natives David and clarinda were married before 1831, probably in New York. (In 1830 David was listed as livingin Bethel, Sullivan County, New York). Sometime between 1840 and 1842 the family left New york and settled in Michigan. By 1850 Thomas (listed as “Jefferson”) was working as a laborer and living with his family in Walker, Kent County. By September of 1852 Thomas had settled in Muskegon, Muskegon County residing there almost continuously until 1894 when he moved to Los Angeles, California. From 1852 to April of 1861 Thomas mostly drove wagons for Ryerson & Morris in Muskegon, although in 1860 he was also working as a log scaler and lumberman living in Muskegon at the Averill boarding house along with William Ryan and George Root, both of whom would enlist in Company H. (In 1860 his father David who had apparently remarried to Connecticut native Philena, was still living in Walker, Kent County.)
Thomas was 30 years old and living in Muskegon when he was elected Orderly Sergeant of the “Muskegon Rangers,” the company of volunteers raised in Muskegon in April of 1861 whose members would serve as the nucleus for Company H, and he subsequently enlisted as First or Orderly Sergeant in Company H on May 6, 1861. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant on October 28, 1861, and according to Dan Crotty of Company F, he was wounded on May 31, 1862, at the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia.
By mid-summer of 1862 Thomas was sick, possibly from his wounds, in Bellevue hospital in New York City. He was discharged from Bellevue on July 16, absent on leave from July 17, and eventually returned to the Regiment where he was promoted to First Lieutenant of Company E on August 12, commissioned August 5, replacing Lieutenant Solomon Tumy. Thomas was wounded slightly in one of his hands on August 29, 1862, at Second Bull Run, resulting in the loss of a finger, and by the second week of September was in Fairfax Street hospital in Alexandria, Virginia.
On October 28 Thomas was transferred back to Company H, He was still absent wounded and reported AWOL in November, although in fact he was at home probably on furlough recovering his health. In fact, while at home he married Pennsylvania native Mary Anne Sickles (b. 1843) on December 2, 1862; they had at least two children: Anna (b. 1865) and Frederick (b. 1867).
Thomas returned to the Regiment and was promoted to Captain of Company H on May 11, 1863, replacing Lieutenant William Ryan, and was commanding Company H by the first of September. He was reported on detached service recruiting in Michigan from February 18, 1864, through May, and was mustered out of service on June 20, 1864.
After his discharge from the army Thomas returned to Muskegon and worked for about ten years for the Muskegon Booming Company, driving piles for three years and then superintending the company’s business for six of those years. In 1870 he was working as an engineer (he owned $8000 worth of real estate) and living with his wife and two children In Muskegon’s Second Ward; he was still living in Muskegon in 1871 and in the 1870s he organized a tug line operating on Muskegon lake. He was commander of the tug Third Michigan in 1873 or 1874, working out of Muskegon. He worked for a while out of Michigan City, Indiana, and returned to the Muskegon area in September of 1877.
Thomas was elected sheriff of Muskegon on the Republican ticket in 1878, took office in January of 1879 and was sheriff during the “Ten Hours or No Sawdust” strike by the mill workers in 1882. In an interview he gave some years later Waters said “It was in the fall of 1878 I was elected sheriff of Muskegon County and I went into office January 9, 1879, and stepped out January 7, 1883. Of course I was elected on the Republican ticket. When I get so I can't vote the Republican ticket I won't vote. Yes, that was during the time of the big strike. It didn't bother me so much but a good many men were worked up. They felt bad because some one was going to kill me. But I am still alive.” By 1880 he was in fact working as the jailor and sheriff and living in Muskegon’s Second Ward with his wife and children.
He was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association, a “diehard” Republican and was reelected to office in November of 1880.
After his second term as sheriff was over in January of 1883, he again engaged in the shipping business on the Great Lakes. In June of 1879 he became a member of Grand Army of the Republic Kearny Post No. 7 in Muskegon.
In 1870 he testified for the prosecution in the second trial of George Vanderpool, formerly of Company H, who had been charged with murdering his business partner in Manistee. (Curiously, Thomas also testified in Vanderpool’s pension application, as well as for Calvin Curler, another former member of Company H.)
Thomas left Muskegon in 1883, when he was drawing $18.50 in 1883 (pension no. 121,628, dated February of 1873), sailing out of Manistee, Manistee County until 1886 and to Frankfort, Benzie County and up and down the western shore of Lake Michigan. In 1886 he sailed to Green Bay, Wisconsin and then to Saugatuck, Allegan County and Chicago in the fruit trade that fall. In 1887 he sailed out of South Haven, Van Buren County, and the following year sold the vessel and delivered her to Sandusky, Ohio.
It was probably in September of 1888 that Thomas joined the Grand Army of the Republic Henry Post No. 3 in Montague, and remained a member until he transferred his Grand Army of the Republic membership to Los Angeles sometime in 1898. In 1888 he built a new ship, the Mabel Bradshaw, and in 1889 she took her maiden voyage out of Holland, Ottawa County. He sailed her to St. Joseph, St. Joseph County in 1890 and from there for three years, making his last trip on November 5, 1893. He wintered at St. Joseph and sold the boat in May of 1894.
On June 18, 1894 he left for Los Angeles to live near his daughter and he arrived there on June 26, 1894. He returned to Michigan in 1901, but only on a brief visit before he returned to California, and he died in Los Angeles at 11:00 p..m. on June 14, 1906, and was presumably buried there.
His widow applied for and received a pension (no. 649502).