Many if not most of you know the classic hymn It Is Well With My Soul. It has been sung for more than a hundred years in churches all across America. Not many people know the story behind this very inspirational hymn.
Horatio Gates Spafford was born in North Troy, New York October 20, 1828. He was a rich Chicago lawyer. This song has very cheery and bright words in the chorus: It is well with my soul. Something that sounds very hopeful but when you read the story you will see that God was the only one that made him able to say it is well with my soul.
In 1870 Horatio and Anna’s son Horatio Jr died of scarlet fever. This was just the begginning of tragedy for them. Horatio had large land investments in Chicago . When the Great Chicago fire destroyed a great majority of the city in 1871 he lost almost all of his investments.
In 1873 Horatio scheduled a vacation for himself and four daughters and wife Anna to Europe. Due to last minute business needs he was forced to stay behind and send his family on ahead on the boat S.S. Ville du Havre. His plan was to follow soon after them to England.
On the night of November 22, 1873 the S.S. Ville du Havre was hit by an English iron sailing ship the Lochearn. The S.S. Ville du Havre was sunk in 12 minutes. Horatio’s wife Anna was one of the few survivors. Out of the 306 passengers 226 died, including the four Spafford daughters. Anna was found unconscious, hanging on to a floating piece of debris. She was rescued by the American ship the Trimountain and transported to Cardiff, Wales where she wired Horatio and said “Saved alone what shall I do?”
Horatio immediatly after receiving the telegraph from Anna boarded a ship headed for Cardiff to reunite with his wife. The captain of the ship came to Horatio when they were over the accident site. He said that this was where it happened and that the water at this point was 3 miles deep. All Horatio could say was that “It is well with my soul.” Spafford returned to his cabin and according to his daughter penned the words to the now world famous lyric.
The Spaffords had suffered horrible tragedy, but they did not turn their backs on God. They returned to Chicago to begin a new life. Not long after returning to America they felt they were called to serve the Lord in the Holy Land. They started a colony in Jerusalem call the “American Colony.” Through this ministry they cared for the sick, needy, and homeless. They did this the rest of their lives.