In the late 1860s, life was good for Horatio G. Spafford and his wife Anna. They were living in a suburb on the north side of Chicago with their five children when tragedy struck. Their four year-old son, Horatio, Jr. died of scarlet fever. Disaster struck again in October of 1871 when the Great Chicago Fire broke out and the Spaffords lost most of their real estate holdings. Even then, they did not despair. They had their home and their four remaining children. God was good.
In 1873, Spafford and his wife Anna planned a trip to Europe. At the last minute, an urgent business matter arose and Spafford could not leave. He sent his wife and four daughters ahead aboard the steamer Ville du Havre and planned to join them soon. In the wee hours of the morning on November 22, 1873, the Ville du Havre collided with an iron sailing ship. Anna survived but their four daughters perished. When Anna arrived in Cardiff, Wales, she telegraphed her husband, "Saved alone. What shall I do?"
As soon as he received Anna's telegram, Spafford left Chicago to bring his wife home. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean the captain of the ship called him to the bridge. He informed Spafford that they were now passing the place where the Ville du Havre collided with the iron sailing ship. That night, alone in his cabin Spafford penned the words to his famous hymn, "It Is Well With My Soul." His faith in God never faltered.
Following their reunion in Europe, the Spaffords returned to Chicago to begin their lives again. God blessed the Spaffords with three more children, two daughters and another son. They again named their son "Horatio," not for his father but for their lost son. Tragically, when little Horatio reached the age of four, just as his brother before him, he died from scarlet fever. After the loss of little Horatio, the Spaffords decided to leave their home in America and settle in Jerusalem. In September of 1881, the Spaffords left America for Israel.
In 1876, P.P. Bliss put Spafford's words to music. This hymn is still sung in Protestant churches today. "It Is Well With My Soul" was first sung in public by Bliss on November 24, 1876 before an assembly of ministers hosted by Dwight L. Moody in Chicago's Farewell Hall. Ironically, one month later, Bliss and his wife were killed in a horrific train wreck. It is believed that Spafford took the words "It is well" from the words of the Shunammite woman that lost her only son who was later raised from the dead by Elisha. (2 Kings 4:26)
Spafford was born on October 20, 1828 in Lansingburgh, New York and died of Malaria on October 16, 1888 in Jerusalem. Anna continued to work in the surrounding areas of Jerusalem until her death in 1923. The Spaffords were laid to eternal rest in Jerusalem. It can be said that "It Is Well With Their Souls."