History & Hospitality

People from all walks of life are drawn to Jiggs Bar

By Dianna Troyer

The Jiggs Bar is an informal community center with Tigg, the resident cat, welcoming customers. Photos by Sydney Martinez/Travel Nevada

To Google reviewers, the Jiggs Bar—34 miles south of Elko—is a 5-star stop on Nevada’s sagebrush saloon circuit.

“No words can describe the welcoming atmosphere of this small out-of-the-way bar,” wrote Danny Young. “It is the best.”

Brandon C. was impressed with its longevity. “It’s a bar with so much history … you’ll get goosebumps while you’re sippin’.”

After spending an afternoon there, Travel Nevada’s Sydney Martinez wrote, “A trip to the Jiggs Bar should be high on the list of anyone in search of adventure or maybe just some good conversation with great people.”

To 60 residents living on nearby ranches and working at mines, the beloved bar—built in the 1950s—is an informal community center and a place to watch the Super Bowl and National Finals Rodeo with friends. Local musicians have impromptu jam sessions.

To owner/manager and local rancher Marcia Peters Scott, the bar is like an old friend she has known for nearly 4 decades. Her parents, Harry and Isabel Peters, bought it in 1984.

“It’s always been a big part of my life,” says Marcia, 51. “I started helping here when I was 13 after my parents bought it. When Mom had a stroke in 2007, I took over as manager. It hasn’t changed a lot and is still a pretty cool place.”

In 1965, a national advertising campaign for Volkswagen (VW) featured the entire population of Jiggs— 5 adults, four children and one dog comfortably sitting in a bus. From left are Mrs. Gruenhagen, a teacher, Tony Zunino, Wyatt Gibbs, Bill and Gertrude Peters, and Bill Zunino. Dana Gibbs and Jiggs Bar owners Oliver and Ruby Breschini are in the front seats.

Bartender Debbie Merkley and Tigg, a resident orange tabby cat, welcome regulars and passersby who drop in for conversation, companionship, coffee or a cold beer.

“My niece Mykle brought Tigg to my mom when she was a toddler, and Tigg was little,” Marcia says. “He’s been here ever since and stays in the living area in the back.”

Debbie says the Jiggs community is like one big family.

“At the bar, it’s great to visit with the regulars and meet people who come from all over,” Debbie says. “One day, we had families from Germany and France here at the same time.”

The German family noticed a taxidermy jackalope in the bar and said their country had a similar folklore creature, a wolpertinger.

Debbie and Marcia agree that running the bar is as much of a community service and labor of love as it is a business.

“When Ruby Breschini was ready to retire, my parents bought it because they wanted it to stay open for everyone,” Marcia says. “At one point, it had been closed for about four or 5 years, and they didn’t want that to happen again. They both had a love for our community.”

To Marcia’s dad, a brand inspector, rancher and masterful storyteller, the Jiggs Bar was a second home.

“He was known as ‘that old man at the end of the bar,’ who told entertaining stories about local history and ranch life with his iconic dry sense of humor,” Marcia says.

Radiating cowboy hospitality, the bar welcomes regulars and passersby along state route 228.

Harry was born in 1927 in a log house at the Sherman Creek Station, a stage stop and post office 60 miles south of Elko. His grandfather, Henry, helped build the historic home. In 1997, it was moved to Elko and restored to serve as the Elko Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center.

He often told of dropping out of Elko High School as a freshman. With longtime friend Lew Eklund, he launched his cowboy career on ranches at Jiggs, Golconda and Tuscarora. Eventually settling near Jiggs, Harry and Isabel raised cattle on the 25 Ranch.

Curious Customers

No matter how often they were asked, Marcia and her parents never tired of answering curious customers’ questions about Jiggs. In the late 1800s, it was home to honest ranchers, miners and outlaws, who all coexisted by mostly ignoring each other.

New settlers kept changing its name, calling it Mound Valley, Cottonwood, Dry Creek, Hylton, Skelton and finally, Jiggs. 2 stories explain the final name selection in 1918.

Wells Rural Electric Company began providing electricity to Jiggs in 1963. Vintage insulators decorate the bar.

One version is the U.S. Postal Service asked ranchers to submit names to establish a post office. The winning name was Jiggs, a character in a comic strip, “Bringing Up Father.” Another story is local business owner Albert Hankins’ children asked him to name it Jiggs.

Marcia and her parents also proudly told customers of Jiggs’ prominence in state politics. Despite its small population, 2 Nevada governors were Jiggs natives, Lewis R. Bradley, the state’s second governor, and Edward Carville, the 18th.

Although remote, filmmakers and advertising executives somehow found and favored Jiggs. In 1940, it was the set for the film “Brigham Young, Frontiersman.” In 1965, a yearlong VW advertising television and magazine campaign boasted of an entire town’s population—5 adults, 4 children and 1 dog in Jiggs—sitting comfortably in a Volkswagen (VW) bus. A photo of the feat hangs on the wall.

Although Harry and Isabel Peters have died, their presence lingers with a handmade wooden sign above the bar, “Harry and Isabel Proprietors.”

“When I’m working, I think of all the times we spent together here,” Marcia says. “Mom was known for her infectious laugh and Dad for his stories.”

When Harry died at age 86 on June 29, 2013, his celebration of life was held at the bar on July 5, the day he and Isabel bought it. Isabel died a year later.

“It’s still what Mom and Dad would like it to always be—an old country bar where people are welcome,” Marcia says.

Jiggs Bar, along state route 228, is open 7 days a week from 12p.m. to 7:30 p.m.