I just found out that there were only 8 hand cart companies, if we exclude the Willie and Martin groups, that left Florence for Salt Lake. I taught Church History in institute and Sunday School, and I never noticed there were only 10 total hand cart companies.
The first three had a total of 815 souls, the ill-fated Willie and Martin companies had 980, and then the final five had 1071 souls. All told 2,866 people left their homes in Europe and traveled across the plains for their faith between 1856 and 1860. The last hand cart company in 1860 had a mere 124 people.
I'm just starting to gather some info as this is interesting to me whether we do the event or not. The biggest problem that I see that we need to deal with is the immense numbers of people who *should* be with us. We're running into the same problem that the armies do at events, we should have anywhere from 300 to 500 people accompanying us on this journey, as well as a few supply wagons, etc.
The Deseret News in 1856 gave the following numbers (I've used my own words) We should have approximately "500 souls, with 100 hand carts, 5 wagons with 12 oxen, 4 mules, and 25 tents." These were large canvas tents that could sleep about 20 persons sleeping on the ground. (the latter from a period diary) From the Deseret News again "They were fitted out with provisions to Florence. There, in anticipation of assistance from the valley, they will be provided with scanty supplies for 60 days."
Florence is about 6 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska, so they needed provisions enough to travel 270 miles from Iowa City. It seems to have taken close to four weeks to make the journey. There were also apparently four outposts west of Florence where the Saints were to obtain provisions, one was Fort Laramie, and I have not found the others yet, I just started researching.
What I find interesting is that a large number of the immigrants were female. The Deseret News continued by saying, "These companies are composed of our European emigration generally and are interspersed with very old and very young. They are not more than ordinarily strong, and the lists will show that they have not an extra supply of men. But they are all strong in God, and have faith in the fulfillment of the words of his Prophets."
Confirmation of the vast number of ladies is found in the Huron Reflector in 1857 (Huron, Ohio). "It was certainly the most novel and interesting sight I have seen for many a day. We met two trains, one of thirty and the other of fifty carts, averaging about six to the cart. The carts were generally drawn by one man and three women each, though some carts were drawn by women alone. There were about three women to one man, and two-thirds of the women single. It was the most motley crew I ever beheld. Most of them were Danes, with a sprinkling of Welsh, Swedes, and English, and were generally from the lower classes of their countries. Most could not understand what we said to them. The road was lined for a mile behind the train with the lame, halt, sick, and needy. Many were quite aged, and would be going slowly along, supported by a son or daughter. Some were on crutches; now and then a mother with a child in her arms and two or three hanging hold of her, with a forlorn appearance, would pass slowly along; others, whose condition entitled them to a seat in a carriage, were wending their way through the sand. A few seemed in good spirits."
It looks as though most hand cart companies tarried in Florence in order to repair their hand carts. The biggest problem that they faced was the sand getting caught in the wooden mechanisms of the cart and wearing away the wood.
Just some rough thoughts. Now off to bed.
edited to change "sane" to "sand." Something spell-check didn't catch.