HILDA — Heinrich Pluenneke settled near here on 640 acres in the 1850s, where he ranched and later became the minister of Hilda Methodist church as well as traveling the region as a circuit riding preacher.

“Apparently, he really got caught up in the religion and became a fervent circuit-riding Methodist minister, preaching in Fredericksburg and in the Llano River Valley,” his great-great grandson Robert Feuge told me in a telephone interview from his home in Sedona, Arizona.

Heinrich Conrad Pluenneke was 25 when his family left Klein Lafferde in Hanover, Germany on November 3, 1845. They boarded a brig named Apollo from the seaport of Bremen/Bremerhaven bound for Galveston, Texas. As the vessel neared the Texas coast, a storm struck and the ship almost sunk.

During the voyage, Heinrich’s father, mother, two of their sons and infant child died of Cholera. From Galveston, the remaining Pluenneke family members journeyed westward. They made their way to Fredericksburg, one of the original German land grant colonies in Texas.

The Adelsverein (Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas) honored Heinrich’s deceased father’s contract and awarded him Town Lot #248 in Fredericksburg, plus 10 acres of outlying farm land.

The war with Mexico (1846-1848) was underway. Heinrich (who became known by his middle name: Conrad) and about 80 of his comrades joined the Texas Volunteers. During the war, he formed friendships with the Liefeste brothers. When Henry Liefeste and his sister Sophie arrived in Fredericksburg during this time period, Heinrich became smitten with Sophie and they married in 1847.

In 1850, Heinrich and wife Sophie moved northward and settled on the Llano River when the future Mason County was still part of Bexar County. Heinrich legally took over his father’s contract and was awarded 640 acres in the Fisher-Miller Grant in 1859. It was the same year Mason County was officially created. The Pluennekes land was located near the small community of Hilda.

Heinrich Conrad Pluenneke, born December 26, 1819 in Klein Lafferde, Hanover, Germany, and Sophie Liefeste were married August 23, 1847. They had ten children: Conrad Jr., Henry, August, Charlie, John, Sophie Pluenneke Wiedemann, Johanna Pluenneke Brandenberger and Dina Pluenneke Kothmann. Mary Elizabeth Pluenneke and Daniel Pluenneke died in early childhood.

August Pluenneke was born August 5, 1859. He and Minna Pape were married February 28, 1889. They had five children: Josephine Wilhemina Pluenneke Hoting, Martha Laurentine Pluenneke Bode, Stella Sophia Pluenneke Jordan, Wesley Henry Pluenneke and Hulda Pluenneke Bode.

Sophie Pluenneke married Theodore Wiedemann. Their daughter, Emma Wiedemann, married Henry Feuge, son of Christoph and Christine Fuege. Their second son, Christoph Feuge Jr. married Catharina Stiehl. Of their children, the last born was Wesley Andrew Feuge, father of Robert Lamar Feuge of Sedona, Arizona.

Heinrich Conrad Jr. married Eliesabeth “Eliese” Brandenberger June 11, 1974. Eliese died giving birth. Heinrich Jr. married Carolina “Lina” Henrietta Wissemann December 25, 1879. They had nine children: Cornelia Ernestine Loeffler, Leonard Caesar, Selma Pluenneke Geistweidt, Max Theodor, Sidonia Louise Pluenneke, Alfreda Marie Pluenneke Hassell, Conrad Carl “Charlie”, Elgin Otto and Ervin Louis.

Leonard Pluenneke, born September 5, 1885, was the oldest son of Heinrich Jr. and Lina Wissenmann Pluenneke. He married Lydia Schulze June 17, 1914. She died June 1, 1927. He married Hulda Kothmann November 29, 1930. They had one daughter, Geraldine Pluenneke Daniel.

Henry Pluenneke married Henrietta Lehmberg May 29, 1879. They had eight children including: Amanda Pluenneke Dannheim, Ben, Ida Pluenneke Rode, Ella Pluenneke Rode, Willard, and Herbert.

August Donop, born September 12, 1869, married Mary “Marie” Liefeste October 24, 1889. They had six children: Hattie Donop Willmann, Pearl Donop Buttery, Minnie Donop Beerwinkle, Ben Donop, Dr. P.T. “Perry” Donop, and Gordon Donop.

According to the Mason County history book, Charles A. Grote was the first Methodist pastor in Gillespie County. During the 1850s, he made frequent visits to families along the Llano River.

It was also during this period that Heinrich Pluenneke, along with others in the region, banded together and established early Methodist missions in the river valley.

The Hilda Methodist Church was built in 1902 by its members including Heinrich’s son August and grandson Leonard Pluenneke. The rock structure still stands.

Heinrich Conrad Pluenneke Jr., the oldest son, started helping his father with ranch work at an early age. He went on several cattle drives to Dodge City, Kansas and into New Mexico.

In 1866, the land was conveyed to Friedreich Liefeste (great-grandfather to Perry Donop Jr.,) who not only established the Lower Willow Creek Methodist Church, but also helped execute a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians.

“The Pluenneke-Liefeste ranch was affected by cattle rustling and involved in the Hoo Doo Wars of the 1870s in Mason County, which sought to eliminate rustlers/outlaws from the area, even though Heinrich was a well-respected minister by then,” Robert Fuege said.

August and Mary Liefeste Donop took the reins of the property in 1893.

In 1956, August Donop passed away and the ranch was passed to Dr. P.T. “Perry” Donop. He was raised on the ranch and attended a one-room schoolhouse nearby. Perry became a medical doctor in Fredericksburg and later practiced in San Antonio.

In 1991 when Dr. Donop died, the land was transferred to his son, Perry Donop, Jr. He continued to operate the ranch as a cow-calf operation. — jlackey@wcc.net


PO Box 3306
San Angelo TX 76902


PO Box 3306
San Angelo TX 76902