Denniston Certificate of Ordination

Oscar E. Denniston Certificate of Ordination

In 1901, Oscar E. Denniston of Kingston, Jamaica, came to Martha’s Vineyard to work with Madison Edwards at the Seamen’s Bethel in Vineyard Haven. Soon after, he began working with Susan Bradley at the Oakland Mission. Together they created a place for African Americans, Portuguese and Cape Verdean immigrants to attend religious services, receive instruction in English and basic arithmetic, and learn what they needed to pass the citizenship test.

Denniston returned to Jamaica after the death of his wife, Charlotte, in 1905. While there, he was ordained at the Hanover Street Baptist Church in Kingston. He remarried in 1907 and returned to Martha’s Vineyard with his new wife, Medora, and his two sons from his first marriage. When Susan Bradley died in 1908, Rev. Denniston took over the Oakland Mission and renamed it in her honor. Though parishioners were of all ethnic backgrounds, the Bradley Memorial Church continued to cater primarily to communities on the margins of Vineyard society: Portuguese, Cape Verdean, Wampanoag and African-American. In an era when racial and ethnic prejudice, and informal segregation, was routine on the Island, Bradley Memorial Church was an oasis for Vineyarders of color. 

Reverend Denniston provided Sunday morning services, followed by Sunday school, and held Sunday evening services to accommodate black servants and other service-economy workers who were not free during the day. After his death in 1942, the Bradley Memorial Church ministered to a dwindling congregation for another twenty-four years before disbanding in 1966.


Title Certificate of Ordination
Date 1906
Type Document
Credit Gift of Island Affordable Housing
Ref No 2008.026
Thematic Collection 100 Years, 100 Stories: Island of Immigrants
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