In 1991, Charles S. Pearce, Jr. purchased a gift for his wife, Peggy. That gift, a letter from the battlefield at Antietam written by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to his wife Fanny, sparked an ongoing interest that led to the current collection of historically significant Civil War documents. In 1996, when the Pearces decided that their collection needed a home where it could be viewed and researched, they placed it in the care of Navarro College.
Charles and Peggy decided that their unique collection of Western art also needed a home where it could be enjoyed by students and art lovers. The Pearces originally started collecting art when they had a home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where many contemporary Western artists lived. Their philosophy for the collection is based upon gathering a representative collection from recognized artists while identifying up-and-coming artists.
Charles S. Pearce, Jr. was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1919, the son of Charles S. Pearce, Sr. and Vivian Coates Pearce. Though raised in Chicago, Charles, Jr. attended prep school at Los Alamos Ranch School near Santa Fe, New Mexico. He graduated from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, with a B.A. in English in 1942. During World War II, he served in the United States Army, first in field artillery and subsequently in tank destroyer and intelligence.
The Pearces married on March 13, 1942 in Towanda, Pennsylvania. After the war they lived in Chicago before moving to Texas in the early 1950s where they made their home in Kerens on a ranch that had been in his mother's family for three generations. The Pearces had two children, Charles S. Pearce III and Vivian Allan Pearce, numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Charles and Peggy Pearce were honored in 1997 by the Texas Library Association with its Benefactor's Award for outstanding service to Texas Libraries. In 1999, the Dallas Civil War Roundtable honored the Pearces with the Grady McWhiney Award for their contributions to scholarship and preservation of Civil War history. On March 13, 2001 the Pearces were honored by the Texas State Legislature for their gift and ongoing support of the Civil War Collection at Navarro College.
Mrs. Pearce passed away on February 2, 2005, surrounded by her family. On September 6, 2008, Mr. Pearce subsequently passed away after a brief illness.
Their legacy lives on in the collections, exhibitions, and programs at the Pearce Museum which opened October 8, 2003, at Navarro College.