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Horatio G. Spafford, the lyricist of "It Is Well with My Soul", was born in 1928 in New York. He married Anna Larssen, fourteen years his junior in 1861. He was a successful lawyer in Chicago. He was closely associated with Dwight L. Moody and other evangelists of the time. He was an active member of the Fullerton Presbyterian Church, which he helped build. George Stebbins, a noted gospel musician, described him as a "man of unusual intelligence and refinement, deeply spiritual and a devoted student of the Scriptures."
Spafford, in order to assist Moody and Ira Sankey in their evangelical meetings in Great Britain, booked passage on the S.S. Ville du Havre for family. At the last minute, he was unable to leave, but sent his family on ahead, planning to soon follow. At sea the ship was struck by another ship and sank. He and his wife lost their four daughters at sea.
In 1881 he, his wife, and the two daughters born to them after the shipwreck, moved to Jerusalem, where he helped to found a group call the American Colony. The mission of the group was to serve the sick and destitute. Nobel Prize winning Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlof later wrote about this colony in Jerusalem. Horatio and Anna Spafford's daughter, Bertha Spafford Vesper also has written a book about the Colony, Our Jerusalem (1950). The American Colony still exists in Jerusalem. You may learn more about it in the Library of Congress Exhibition at http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/americancolony/amcolony-family.html or through Mrs. Vesper's work at http://chass.colostate-pueblo.edu/history/seminar/vester/paper.htm.