Hi, Future Ticia 2023 here, I’m updating this post, and I want to keep the emotional heart of the post that I wrote right after I found out my Grandpa had died, but I also want to make it a bit more helpful for you as you do a hymn study of It it Well with my Soul and have a short Horatio Spafford lesson. He gets a quick mention in my Sunday School lesson on the Fruit of the Spirit, and believe he’s an interesting person to add to your study of church history
Have you ever heard the hymn “When Peace like a River?”
It’s a wonderful hymn. It was a favorite of my friend Sam. When he was told he had been moved to hospice care, he sang the chorus:
It is well with my soul
Why do I bring this up? Several reasons.
First, I learned this morning my Grandpa died last night. He died peacefully, and my Grandma is doing well, or as well as can be. There are a lot of emotions running through me right now.
Second, because of the story behind this hymn.
Horatio G Spafford wrote this hymn in the 1870s. Here’s a bit of his life.
Horatio Spafford was a wealthy man who had worked hard to earn his money. He gave much of it to different charities of the time and worked hard for the abolitionist movement and for the temperance society.
He and his wife were very proud of their five children. Their youngest was a boy. When he was four years old, he died of scarlet fever. Spafford mustered up and continued on, but his wife really struggled with this.
A year later, in 1871 the Great Fire of Chicago broke out. Spafford had just bought a large chunk of property near Lake Michigan. He put most of his fortune into the property and was working hard to renovate it for rental and to give to Diwght Moody for his new college.
Spafford lost everything. But, he and his wife were glad they hadn’t lost their lives, and everyone was safe, and they worked hard to help others hurt by the fire. Eventually, though they decided to go to Europe to recover their spirits and hopefully recover their health which was starting to go.
The day they were to leave a business emergency came up keeping Horatio from traveling with his family. He sent them on but stayed behind with plans to follow in a few days. Sadly, that did not happen. The ship his wife and daughters were on sank, and his daughters all died. His wife was found unconscious and survived, but barely.
Spafford took the next boat to Europe and on his way over as he grieved his daughters wrote the words to this song.
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul
More resources for Horatio G. Spafford and the song
- Then Sings My Soul– a short history and the sheet music for over 100 hymns
- Flights of Imagination– includes an Adventures in Odyssey episode about Horatio Spafford and writing the song
- It is Well, the story of Horatio and Anna Spafford