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At the age of 49, Ohio-born J. Herman Hardebeck had earned a gilt-edged reputation as a real estate developer in Kankakee. In the spring of 1891, to the north of Kankakee and south of Bourbonnais, lay a flat, mile-wide prairie. The land stretched eastward from a grove of Kankakee river timber, past the Illinois Central Railroad into the watershed of Soldier Creek. In May, Hardebeck signed agreements with Alvah Perry and Hiram Goodwin for the purchase of 340 acres of this property. He had taken options on additional tracts. Here Hardebeck would establish an industrial community first named North Kankakee and later renamed Bradley in honor of farm implement manufacturer David Bradley.