San Antonio—On June 3, 2010, San Antonio resident Perry Donop, Jr. received the Family Land Heritage Award from the State of Texas Department of Agriculture on behalf of the Donop Family Ranch. The Family Heritage Program recognizes farms and ranches that have been in continuous agricultural operation by the same family for 100 years or more and the Donop Family Ranch is being honored for being in operation for 150 years. Very few ranches remain under the same family ownership for this many years, due to inheritance taxes and the financial drain to maintain the land properly.
Family ranches and farms are the embodiment of the Texas legend. For many, working the land is a family tradition and these ranches and farms are living Texas treasures. To qualify for the Family Land Heritage Program, the owner must be a Texas resident who can trace the farm's line of ownership from the first landowner to the present. The program began in 1974 honoring families with 100 years of farming heritage and in 2000 the program began honoring families with 150 and 200 years of farming heritage. Award winners receive a Texas Century Farm or Ranch sign for display on the property and documentation of the family's history in the Family Land Heritage Registry.
The history of the Donop Family Ranch began in 1859 when German immigrant Heinrich Conrad Pluenneke and his wife Sophie Liefeste Pluenneke (Donop's great grandmother's aunt) purchased the ranch near Fredericksburg, Texas, on the Llano River. Conrad ranched and was a Circuit Methodist preacher. In 1866 the land was conveyed to Friedreich Leifeste (Donop's great grandfather), who not only established the Lower Willow Creek Methodist Church, but also executed a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians.
In 1893 August and Mary Leifeste Donop (Donop's grandparents) purchased the land from Frederick Leifeste, where they raised their six children. August was a rancher and a Methodist preacher. In 1956 August Donop passed away and the ranch then passed to Dr. P. T. Donop (Donop's father), who was raised on the ranch and attended a one room schoolhouse. Later he became a prominent Medical Doctor in Fredericksburg and later in San Antonio. In 1991 Dr. P. T. Donop passed and the land was transferred the current owner, Perry Donop, Jr. who continues with the family history of operating the ranch as a cow-calf operation.