There is a small town in Iowa called What Cheer, so why does this group from Rhode Island share that name?
What Cheer is named for a Native American greeting used in modern Rhode Island in the 1600s. In 1636, Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island who left Salem, Massachusetts to seek religious freedom, landed at modern-day Providence and was greeted by Narragansett Native Americans with “What Cheer, Netop”. Netop was the Narragansett word for friend, and What Cheer was an old English greeting brought to New England by English settlers. Over time, the story of Williams’ welcome was absorbed into the legend of Providence.
When the future What Cheer was founded, it was named Petersburg for Peter Britton, the settlement’s founder. The What Cheer story and name was brought to Iowa by Joseph Andrews, a major and veteran of the American Civil War in 1864. Andrews was a native of Providence and offered the name of What Cheer for a post office in the town in 1866. Petersburg was officially renamed What Cheer on December 1, 1879.
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