Prior to the invention of the automobile most folks did their traveling by horse. Usually that was by saddle or having a wagon pulled by horses. Evidently during the 1850s the expression “a one horse town” was coined. Its first known usage in print was in 1857. Probably during that period of time any community had more than one horse. Hence it would seem that the expression “one horse town” was used in a derogative manner. It usually had reference to a small town considered insignificant and didn’t have much to show for it or to offer. Many young people who grew up in one of them looked forward to finding their future in a larger populated area.
As the years go by some of those same folks who left the community of their youth look forward to returning during their retirement years. Others who were born in a city and lived there all their life up to their retirement move to a rural area in order to escape the big city.
Dub Mowery is a Gospel preacher in the Church of Christ. A native of Southeast Oklahoma, he is the author of Colloquial Sayings & Expressions (Morris Publishing, 2008)