Bradley History


After the federal government acquired the land from the Treaty of Tippecanoe, now known as Kankakee County, in 1832, settlers began advancing west. Though the first six original townships were placed in the newly created Kankakee County on February 11, 1853, two more communities were added in 1855, completing the plan for the growing area. Incorporated two decades after the establishment of Kankakee County, Bourbonnais celebrated its centennial in 1975. Bradley’s hundredth birthday was celebrated in 1992.

With over a thousand acres of land, established businessman and real estate agent, J. Herman Hardebeck, originally planned to put together a simple Kankakee subdivision. With the area booming by October 1892, residents urged for and received incorporation as an independent community.

The area attracted a diverse group of people, varying from prosperous entrepreneurs and businessmen to workingmen from a wide-range of class structures. People from communities close to the region, including some from Chicago, came to aid in the building of the North Kankakee factories, with many remaining in the area after the construction was finished. With expectations of finding work in the new factories, immigrant workers from all over the world settled in the area.


Due to the depression in 1893, the North Kankakee economy began to fail. Through his strong power of persuasion, J. Herman Hardebeck brought in the David Bradley Manufacturing Company, a farm implement company, from Chicago to help restore economic prosperity to North Kankakee. Soon after the arrival of this company, North Kankakee’s name became “Bradley City” until 1896 when it was shortened to “Bradley.”

Bradley remains a growing, prosperous community since its establishment in 1892. Beginning with a population of about 4,000, Bradley is now inhabited by nearly 15,000.

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The Pottawatomi Indians call this area “Te-yar-ac-ke”, meaning “wonderful land.” Some years later, the word “Ky-an-ke-ke” evolved and eventually became Kankakee. While visiting the area in 1679, the French explorer Cavalier de LaSalle befriended and traded with the Native Americans. In 1830, Francois Bourbonnais Sr., a fur trapper, hunter, and agent of the American Fur Company arrived. Bourbonnais Grove was named after this early pioneer. Two years later, Noel Lavasseur and Gurdon Hubbard arrived. Lavasseur, born in the province of Quebec, located his fur trading post in Bourbonnais Grove and became the first permanent non-native American settler of the area. Following ratification of the Treaty of Tippecanoe, more settlers began inhabiting the area of Bourbonnais Grove.

The community was finally incorporated in 1875. Elected was the first mayor of the Village, George R. Letourneau. His home now serves as the home for the Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society.

historical society

In 1858, work was started on the present Maternity BVM Catholic Church on what is now North Convent Street in Bourbonnais. In 1860, the pastor of the Maternity BVM Parish brought three Sisters from the Congregation of Notre Dame in Montreal, Canada to meet the growing educational needs of the community.

The first step toward providing higher education occurred in 1862, when 10 students enrolled in Notre Dame Academy. Enrollment increased rapidly, and in 1868, St. Viator College was chartered. The college survived a devastating fire in 1906, but succumbed to declining enrollments, and in 1940 the campus of St. Viator College was purchased by Olivet Nazarene College.

Today, the Village of Bourbonnais is a growing community of more than 18,000 residents.

For a complete history of the Village of Bourbonnais, please see “The Village,” the story of Bourbonnais, by Adrien M. Richard, copyrighted 1975.

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