McElligott, Edward R. "Ed"

1907-1991 | Businessman, Civic Leader, and City Councilman

Edward "Ed" McElligott was an early Anchorage businessman who founded Anchorage Grocery (4th Avenue and H Street) with his wife, Esther. They operated their grocery business for twenty-six years and then sold out and invested in an Automotive Parts and Equipment Company, which became the largest distributor of auto parts in Alaska, and other ventures.

Edward R. McElligott was born in Brooklyn, Queens County, New York on June 18, 1907, to Edward and Jane McElligott. He lived in Brooklyn until the age of eleven, when his family moved to Portland, Oregon and, later, to Grants Pass, Oregon, where he attended high school. He also attended Benke-Walker Business College in Portland for two years, taking night classes while working days at a pharmacy.[1]

Looking for adventure, McElligott became a seaman for the Luckenback Steamship Company, working his way up to quartermaster. During his two years at sea, he went several times around the world.

In early spring 1929, McElligott and two shipmates followed rumors that there was work on the Alaska Railroad. They traveled steerage on the steamer Yukon and arrived in Anchorage on April 25, 1929, with little money. He was hired on May 4, 1929 by the Alaska Railroad to work in the yard loading cars. He also worked taking tickets at the Empress Theatre.[2] He left the railroad after one year to join W. J. Boudreau Company, a wholesale grocer, where he received a good background in the grocery business.

On July 31, 1931, McElligott married Esther Alberta Olund, a graduate nurse who arrived in Anchorage on July 25, 1930 with a one-year contract from the U.S. Department of the Interior to be one of the nurses staffing the twenty-bed Alaska Railroad Hospital, working with physicians Joseph H. Romig and August Walkowski. She was born in Manchester, Washington on March 31, 1907. She graduated as valedictorian from South Kitsap Union High School in Port Orchard, Oregon, and attended Swedish Hospital School of Nursing in Seattle, Washington.[3] During the 1920s, married women were not permitted to continue working, and she left nursing to raise a family. After her marriage, she only worked for a short time as a private duty nurse for a few special cases.[4]

McElligott wanted to have his own business and, in December 1934, the couple pooled their savings to open Anchorage Grocery, located on the corner of 4th Avenue and H Street in Anchorage. They operated the store for twenty-six years at that location. They added a meat market in 1936.

In addition to Anchorage Grocery, the McElligotts were engaged in several other business ventures, including Automotive Parts and Equipment Company, Grocers Wholesale, and an insurance firm. In 1935, Edward McElligott became the wholesale agent for Olympia beer. He  sold out of the grocery business.

In May 1945, McElligott expanded into automobile parts by opening, with partners Ed Glover and Vance Bingham, the Automotive Parts and Equipment Company, at 4th Avenue and H Street. In 1951, they built a new building at 5th Avenue and Cordova Street. Their business evolved into APEC Distributors, Inc., which distributed automobile parts and accessories to seventeen stores around Alaska. In an oral history interview conducted in 1991, Esther McElligott, recounted that her husband “loved” the automobile parts business:

“He always . . . oh, he said he just loved the kind of work rather than the grocery business. He said there’s no tomato for them to pinch there. You know, produce was so hard to come by and people would come in and pick it up and fondle the tomatoes. But anyway, he loved that and had that for years.”[5]

They also owned fifteen houses and apartments and two store buildings.[6]

McElligott was elected in the April 4, 1944 general election to a two-year term on the Anchorage City Council (1944-1945). He received 520 votes out of a total of 1,085 votes cast in the election.  He was a volunteer fireman from 1931 to 1948.[7]

McElligott was very active in civil affairs. He was a life member of the Pioneers of Alaska and the Elks Lodge. He served as president of the Anchorage Rotary Club in 1967, a director of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Boy Scout Council. From 1944 to 1948, he served on the board of directors of the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation (ARRC) in Palmer.[8] 

McElligott was active in the Roman Catholic Church and was a member of Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage. He was chairman of the finance committee that raised funds during the building of the Holy Family Cathedral. He was invested in the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and the Order of Malta, a religious order involved in hospital work.

McElligott’s wife, Esther, was one of the founders of Bishop's Attic (the local Catholic sponsored thrift shop) and served on its board of directors for more than twenty years. She was also a member of the board of directors that planned, started, and built the Anchorage Senior Center.[9] She was a life member of the Pioneers of Alaska’s Auxiliary 4, Woman’s Club, and the Mother’s Club of Anchorage.[10]

Edward R. McElligott died on April 5, 1991 and is buried in the Catholic Tract of the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery. Esther Olund McElligott died at home in Anchorage on October 26, 2004, and is also buried at Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery. They were survived by four of their five children: Marymae “Mickey” McElligott Duncan, Margaret Ann “Margie” Gass, Michael McElligott, and Esther Lynn Hickel. Their eldest son, James Morgan McElligott, died at the age of fifteen due to complications from rheumatic fever.



[1] Obituary, Edward R. McElligott, Anchorage Daily News, April 8, 1991, E-4.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Obituary, Esther McElligott, Anchorage Daily News, October 31, 2004, B-11; and Tewkesbury’s Who’s Who in Alaska and Alaska Business Index (Juneau: Tewkesbury Publishers, 1947), 52.

[4] Transcript, oral history interview, Esther Olund McElligott and Esther Heverling Wolfe, Interview by Maureen Cowles, transcription by Gail Hoshiko-Reed, October 15, 1992, 1 and 17-18, Anchorage Pioneer Oral History Project, Oral History Transcripts, 1992-1995 (HMC-0466), Series 2, Oral History Interview Transcripts, Box 1, Folder 15, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK; and “‘Old-Timers’ Reminisce about Providence,” Providence News Cache, v. 3, no. 4, Winter 1973, 4, (accessed August 23, 2016).

[5] Ibid., 18.

[6] Obituary, Edward R. McElligott, Anchorage Daily News, April 8, 1991 E-4.

[7] "Voters Elect Wolfe, Ervin, McElligott, Affirm Separate Utility Accounts," Anchorage Daily Times, April 5, 1944, 1; and entry for Ed McElligott, History of Mayors and Assembly Members, 1925-1985 [“Mayors and Councilman of the City of Anchorage, Alaska],” Clerk’s Office, Municipality of Anchorage, Anchorage, AK.

[8] Obituary, Edward R. McElligott, Anchorage Daily News, April 8, 1991, E-4; and Tewkesbury’s Who’s Who in Alaska and Alaska Business Index, 52.

[9] John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 315-316.

[10] Entry for “McElligott, Esther and Edward,” in Fond Memories of Anchorage Pioneers (Anchorage: Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo 15, Auxiliary 4, 1996), 150-151.


This biographical sketch of Edward R. McElligott is based on an essay which originally appeared in John Bagoy’s Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage, AK: Publications Consultants, 2001), 315-316. See also the Edward McElligott file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 5, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage, AK.  Photographs courtesy of the McElligott family.  Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012.  Note:  edited, revised, and expanded by Bruce Parham, August 23, 2016.

Preferred citation:  Bruce Parham, ed., “McElligott, Edward R. ‘Ed’, Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940,

Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website,