James Hulme Bereman was an entrepreneur and businessman. While employed as a pharmacist at Grimm Drug Store in Aurora, he developed a formula for a skin-whitening cream that he named Stillman’s Freckle Cream.
He began commercial production of the cream and the business steadily grew under his direction. It was the right product for the times. It became a huge success worldwide in an era when pale white skin was the mark of a lady. Of course tanning beds were unheard of.
In the distant past, a lady took pride in her milk white skin, and the promise of removing those annoying brown spots was very appealing. But, times change, and the product is no longer made in this country.
Unfortunately, a company in Pakistan has been illegally marketing a product using the Stillman’s Freckle Cream name. This counterfeit product, which contains dangerous ingredients, is banned in this country, but has managed to find its way into some small neighborhood stores.
Having made his fortune at an early age, Mr. Bereman began looking around to purchase a large parcel of land. He found the perfect spot to indulge in some of his new interests. East of Route 25, opposite the village of Montgomery, he found what he was looking for. In 1905, he purchased the large parcel of rocky farmland that extended from the Kendall County line, south as far as the Fox Bend Golf Course.
Old records show that property on the east side of the river had been a stock farm as far back as the 1860s. During the Civil War, the co-owner of the Hord-Brodhead mill in Montgomery, Lucas Brodhead, was also prominent horse breeder in Kentucky.
The Confederate army was always looking for fresh horses, and several of Brodhead’s prize horses were stolen in a raid. In the confrontation that followed, two horses died, but Pilot, Jr. and others were recovered and moved out of Kentucky to the stock farm in Montgomery for safekeeping.
Pilot, Jr. was one of the finest harness racers in the world and a very valuable horse. He sired a long line of champions. While in Montgomery Pilot, Jr. died. He is buried on the property where Austin Park is today. The full story can be found .
Bereman developed his estate, where he raised Percheron horses and Hereford cattle. The property also contained a golf course, which was the precursor to the Aurora County Club. He built a large home on a beautiful spot at the top of a hill overlooking the Fox River.
The winding road leading up to the house snaked back and forth because the older cars from that era would stall on a steep incline. Now and then, there would be a spot where a car could pull over to make room for another coming down the hill.
At the bottom of the hill, a low spot was fenced in to make a grazing area for herds of deer. At that time deer were still a novelty in this area. A drive south to Oswego from the Montgomery Bridge was a special treat. It might include a stop by the side of the road to watch the deer, and then a trip to Schuler’s drug store on Main Street in Oswego for an icy cold bottle of Orange Crush or Grape Soda.
In 1940, Bereman retired from active business in the Stillman Company, leaving the company in the hands of his sons. By this time his property consisted of several large barns and farmhouses, a private golf course, and the popular deer park.
Barney Michaels once worked as a farm hand for the Beremans. He and his brother Felix eventually bought the former Esser Grocery Store in Montgomery. Barney did the deliveries and regularly made the trip up and down that winding road.
Mrs. Bereman was a lovely, warm-hearted woman who had great compassion for people in the village who were struggling through the “Great Depression.” If she heard of a family who needed a helping hand, she would contact the and order a basket of groceries to be delivered without revealing the sender’s name. Such acts of kindness are long remembered.
In 1951, J. H. Bereman died. The stock farm was sold to a Dr. Bowman from Chicago. He in turn hired Don Dise to develop the Boulder Hill subdivision. The timing could not have been better because the Caterpillar Tractor Company was building it’s new plant on Route 31 north of Oswego. The workmen would need housing and they made up a majority of the early homeowners.
A popular feature of the new development was the Boulder Hill Playhouse. One of the largest barns of the former stock farm was turned into a playhouse with a unique feature: a revolving stage that allowed quick scenery changes. People came from all around Chicago land to see the popular plays. Using local talent, they regularly played to a full house. The playhouse burned in 1967.
Robert Bereman, son of J. H., served the village as president in 1957, and as a Trustee in the 60s. The Bereman family had a huge impact on the village of Montgomery, as well as the citizens of the Boulder Hill community. The big house still stands at the top of the hill and evokes pleasant memories of good neighbors, and the gracious lady who lived there and became one of us.