COY (Coye), AMASA (Amassa, Amasy), merchant; b. 31 July 1757 in Pomfret, Conn., eldest son of J. Edward Coy (McCoy) and Ama Titus; brother of Mary Coy*; m. first 1797 Elizabeth Holly, and they had one son and two daughters; m. secondly c. 1808 Mary Spafford Smith, née Barker, and they had two sons; d. 18 July 1838 in Fredericton.
In 1763 Amasa Coy went with his parents to the Maugerville settlement in what was then the colony of Nova Scotia [see Israel Perley*]. They remembered nearly starving in the early years. Eventually they settled in Gage Township. Like most New Englanders in the Saint John valley, the Coys were in sympathy with the American colonists at the time of the revolution, and Amasa served in Jonathan Eddy*’s unsuccessful attack on Fort Cumberland (near Sackville, N.B.) in 1776. A report on land claims and loyalty submitted to Brigade-Major Gilfred Studholme* in 1783, after listing the claim of Coy and a brother to 200 acres in Gage Township, says simply: “Amasa was in arms against the fort at Cumberland.” Their father, according to the report, “was a rebel committee man.”
J. Edward Coy had been one of the founders of the Congregational Church at Maugerville in the 1760s and both he and his wife were to sign the congregation’s new covenant in 1789. In the early years of the settlement the church dominated community life and imposed its discipline on individuals, but under the strain of war its unity crumbled. Visits of the evangelist Henry Alline* in 1779 and 1781 led to disputes over doctrine, as well as to a renewal of interest in spiritual affairs. With the arrival of the loyalists in 1783 came a further awareness of theological differences and ecclesiastical distinctions.
When his fellow New Englanders, very much outsiders in the new loyalist society, became preoccupied with doctrinal matters, Amasa Coy followed a moderate course. He was associated both with the traditionalists who reorganized the Congregational church and moved the meeting-house to Sheffield in 1789 [see David Burpe] and with an Allinite group in Waterborough and Gagetown. Around the time of his marriage in 1797 he moved from Gagetown to the parish of Queensbury in York County, where in 1800 he became one of the founding members of the Calvinist Baptist church in Prince William. This congregation joined the Baptist Association of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, an organization which came into existence that year when a number of ministers formally set themselves apart from the New Light (Allinite) movement and allied themselves with Calvinist Baptist associations in New England. Historian David G. Bell regards this development as arising in part from a desire for respectability at a time when “new dispensationalism” had led some New Lights to act out their belief that conversion had freed them from obedience to the rules of moral and religious conduct.
In 1808 Coy acquired four lots in Fredericton, conveniently located for business purposes near Province Hall and the army barracks. Two years later he moved to Fredericton and purchased rights to 37 acres along the road to the site where King’s College would be built in the 1820s. As the town grew, he prospered from the development of these properties. He also opened a store on Queen Street, which in 1825 was operating under the name of Stewart and Coy, merchants. In some of his business activities he worked in partnership with his son Asa and with his son-in-law Thomas B. Smith. Amasa and Asa were among the founders of the Central Bank of New Brunswick in 1834 [see Henry George Clopper]. Two years later Asa became the first president of the Bank of Fredericton.
In 1813 Amasa Coy was among those who planned a Baptist meeting-house in Fredericton; it was built on land he made available. The Fredericton Baptist Church, with 13 members, was founded in 1814 and Coy received his dismission from Queensbury to join it two years later. At that time the Calvinist Baptist congregations were regarded by the authorities as pro-American and therefore potentially disloyal. Later their reputation suffered from their being popularly identified with other congregations in the Saint John valley which were also designated as Baptist but which did not have the formal structures of the Baptist Association’s churches or follow its rule, adopted in 1809, of close communion. Gradually, however, the efforts of the Calvinist Baptists to translate a backwoods movement into an urban setting led to a recognition of their respectability. Their church grew vigorously and by the time of Coy’s death they had opened a seminary in Fredericton under the Reverend Frederick William Miles to challenge Anglican domination of higher education and had established themselves as an effective force in the shaping of the provincial polity. Amasa Coy’s use of his wealth had contributed to the great success of his co-religionists in their efforts to participate in and influence the course of New Brunswick life.
Conn. State Library (Hartford), Indexes, Barbour coll., Pomfret vital records, 1: 38; Conn. church records, Abington Congregational Church (Pomfret), 3: 277. PANB, MC 1, Coy family, two files; MC 239; RG 7, RS69, A, 1795–96, J. E. Coy; RS75, 1838, Amasa Coy. PRO, CO 188/32, George Best to SPG, 27 April 1825. UNBL, MG H9, H. A. Bridges, “Brief history of the First Baptist Church of Sheffield sometimes referred to as the Canning Church or the Waterbury Church” (typescript, n.d.); Waterborough Baptist Church records, 1800–32 (typescript, n.d.). The Newlight Baptist journals of James Manning and James Innis, ed. D. G. Bell (Saint John, N.B., 1984). “Sunbury County documents,” N.B. Hist. Soc., Coll., 1 (1894–97), no.1: 100–18. Royal Gazette (Fredericton), 25 July 1838. Hill, Old Burying Ground. The old grave-yard, Fredericton, New Brunswick: epitaphs copied by the York-Sunbury Historical Society, Inc., comp. L. M. Beckwith Maxwell (Sackville, N.B., 1938). Bill, Fifty years with Baptist ministers. I. L. Hill, Fredericton, New Brunswick, British North America ([Fredericton?, 1968?]), 49. W. D. Moore, “Sunbury County, 1760–1830” (ma thesis, Univ. of N.B., Fredericton, 1977).