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Burnet plumbing family’s history includes toilet work for Al Capone and fooling the KKK

Brandenburg Plumbing history

LEFT: Edward E. Wiesbrook in front of his plumbing business in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, in the early 1930s. He was one of the nation’s first plumbers, building his business as indoor plumbing became mainstream in middle-class American households. CENTER: Raymond Wiesbrook wanted to be a pianist and a pilot. Instead, his father, one of the nation’s first plumbers and owner of E.E. Wiesbrook Plumbing and Heating in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, trained him in the family business. Raymond later convinced son-in-law Troy Brandenburg of Burnet to do the same. RIGHT: Brothers Adam (left) and Lucas Brandenburg in the warehouse of Brandenburg Plumbing, 4023 Texas 29 East in Burnet. Adam handles the marketing from his apartment in New York City, while Lucas runs the day-to-day operation in Burnet. Courtesy photos

Flushing toilets are not to be taken for granted. Just ask Lucas and Adam Brandenburg of Brandenburg Plumbing in Burnet. The brothers are two in a long line of family members who have been making a living in the business since indoor plumbing went mainstream in the early 1900s. 

This past February, Adam and Lucas bought the business from their parents, Troy and Terry, who live in Silver Creek. The couple started Brandenburg Plumbing in 1997 at the urging of Terry’s father, Raymond Wiesbrook, a plumber who in turn learned the trade from his own father, Edward E. Wiesbrook of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, one of the nation’s first professional plumbers.

When Lucas and Adam’s great-grandfather Edward became a plumber, he married and moved from Chicago to Glen Ellyn, a resort community 30 miles outside of the Windy City. He started his own plumbing business there, one that became a prominent part of the community’s history with stories involving the Ku Klux Klan, hidden Catholic masses, and Al Capone.  

“My grandfather put in all the plumbing for Maryknoll Seminary for free,” Terry said. “The drains and toilet paper holders had his plumbing company’s name engraved on them: E.E. Wiesbrook Plumbing and Heating. Fifty years later, I’m going to school there, and I go into the bathroom and there’s my family’s name on the toilet paper holders!” 

The story behind the seminary and church is part of Wiesbrook and Brandenburg lore. The Wiesbrooks were Roman Catholics in a town with a strong Ku Klux Klan presence and a dislike for that denomination. As the story goes, the KKK stopped the sale of a piece of property intended for the Catholic church and seminary. 

Wiesbrook bought the property under the pretense of relocating his business there. Instead, he donated the land to the church. The KKK reportedly burned a cross on the property when the church was under construction.

While waiting for a sanctuary, local Catholics met for mass in a space Edward leased from a KKK member above the bank. Wiesbrook told them he was using it for card games.

“He was known as a gambler, so nobody thought anything of a bunch of people meeting in his space on Sunday morning,” Terry said. 

“Yeah, pretend you’re a gambler so you can go to church,” Adam said with a laugh. 

E.E. Wiesbrook plumbing advertisement
This advertisement for E.E. Wiesbrook Plumbing and Heating was projected onto the screen before movies began at the theater in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. It was also a billboard near the plumbing office and was vandalized because some thought it too scandalous to be shown in public. Courtesy image

Laughing is a big part of being a Brandenburg, a large family that includes three other sons besides Adam and Lucas. For those who don’t know them, visit the company website at and it becomes apparent. On the site’s history page is the tale of Wiesbrook’s most famous client, Al Capone, who had several resort properties in Glen Ellyn. During a time when many customers paid in chickens and other barter, Capone always paid on time and in cash. 

“Due to a change in company policy, Brandenburg Plumbing no longer serves violent gangsters,” reads a tongue-in-cheek statement on the website. 

The company’s online presence, social media, and marketing are the purview of Adam, the No. 3 son. He has degrees in filmmaking, one from the University of Texas, and owns a wedding photography and videography business he runs from his Upper West Side apartment in New York City. 

His profession also follows in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, who designed advertising slides that were shown on the screen at the local cinema before movies began. One was so cutting-edge, it was considered scandalous. It depicted a woman in a running shower looking over her bare shoulder.

Lucas, son No. 2, is the man in the trenches running a crew of five plumbers and three apprentices. He lives in Burnet with his wife, Mandy, who is the theater arts teacher at Burnet High School, and their 4-year-old daughter, Robyn. He started working with his dad after school and on holidays when he was in the fourth grade. The family had just moved to Burnet to start their business.

“Dad got a big job plumbing for (Burnet County) Judge (D.C. “Chester”) Kincheloe,” Lucas said. “He really needed the work, and, at the time, he couldn’t afford a helper, but there was me. I was just the right size to crawl around in all the small spaces.”

He had a great time on that job, partly, he admitted, because the judge’s wife, Winnie, fed him “bottled Cokes and Fudgsicles.” He worked for his dad all through school, but after graduating from BHS in 2006, he decided he wanted to do something else with his life. He earned a business degree from Trinity University in San Antonio before plumbing pulled him back.

“I graduated from Trinity on a Friday and was at work with Dad that Monday,” he said. 

Lucas loves the plumbing business because of the people he meets and the satisfaction derived from a job well done. Customers have included titans of industry, such as the inventor of disposable diapers, movie producers, and even a few stars. 

“You’d think you never get to talk to these types of people, but you do,” Lucas said. “You go in their house, you replace their toilet, they talk to their plumber.”

More important, plumbers immediately see the results of their work. 

“You take something ugly, leaking, and not working, and by the end of the day, it’s beautiful and wonderful and the customers are so happy,” he said. “That feels good. You are getting a ton of positive affirmations and you are really helping people. The guys talk about it all the time. They like helping people with things. It’s their whole reason for working.”

The Brandenburgs found their way to the Highland Lakes via the military. Troy was in the Air Force, Terry in the Army. They were stationed in Germany, where Lucas was born, and then at Bergstrom Air Force Base in Austin, which is when Troy’s father-in-law convinced him to go into plumbing. 

Burnet caught their attention as a potential place to settle during their vacations.

“We noticed the plumbing was so horrible, we said, ‘They need us!’” Terry said. “We loved the area and thought there would be a good market here.” 

It has also turned out to be a plum good place to raise a large, funny, and growing family.