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What Cheer (pronounced 'WOT-cheer') is a city in Keokuk County, Iowa, United States. It is a former coal town, and from the 1870s to the early 1900s was one of the major coal-producing centers of Iowa. Its greatest recorded population was 3,246, in the 1890 census. Since the 1910s, the population has fallen to 646 in the 2010 census.
What Cheer was founded in 1865 as Petersburg, named after Peter Britton, its founder. This name was rejected by the Post Office, forcing a change of name. Joseph Andrews, a major and veteran of the American Civil War, suggested the name "What Cheer," and the town was officially renamed on December 1, 1879.
Sources differ as to why the name What Cheer was chosen. The phrase what cheer with you is an ancient English greeting dating back at least to the 15th century. One theory of the name is that a Scottish miner exclaimed What cheer! on discovering a coal seam near town.
A more elaborate theory suggests that Joseph Andrews chose the name because of one of the founding myths of his native town of Providence, Rhode Island. According to the story, when Roger Williams arrived at the site that would become Providence in 1636, he was greeted by Narragansett Native Americans with "What Cheer, Netop".