What Do the Terms “One-Horse” and “Jerkwater” Mean and How Did the Words Originate?

In the early days of the railroad, huge tanks were built along the routes where the steam engines could stop and refill by pulling, or jerking, a spout into place, allowing the water to flow from the tank to the engine.

The tiny community that grew up around the tank was called a “jerkwater” town.

A “one-horse” town was so small, one horse could do all the work and transportation for the entire community, so it was about the size of a jerkwater town.