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It Is Well with My Soul

Work in progress

February 2021

The English Sailing Ship Loch Earn Collides with The French Steam Ship SS Ville du Havre

The SS Ville du Havre was a French iron steamship that operated round trips between the northern coast of France and New York City. It was launched in November 1865 and was converted from a paddle steamer to single propeller propulsion in 1871.

In the early morning hours on November 22, 1873, while crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after colliding with an the British three-masted, iron clipper, Loch Earn. The Ville du Havre sunk in 12 minutes. 226 lives were lost. 61 passengers and 26 crew members survived and were rescued by Loch Earn. All 85 passengers and crew aboard the Loch Earn were saved.

On board the Ville du Havre were Horatio Spafford’s wife and daughters. Spafford’s four daughters; Anna, age 11, Margaret, age 9, Elizabeth, age 5, and Tanetta, age 2, all died. His wife Anna, a 31year old Norwegian immigrant survived. When they reached land, Anna sent Horatio a telegram that read, “Saved alone.” Spafford immediately traveled to meet his grieving wife. When his ship passed near where his daughters died, he was inspired to write the hymn, “It is well with my soul.” The melody of this well-known hymn was later written by Phillip Bliss in 1876.


Spafford had been a successful lawyer and had invested heavily in real estate. No stranger to tragedy, Horatio and Anna’s four-year-old son died during the Great Chicago Fire, two years earlier in 1871. Their vast properties were ruined in the fire. His estate was further hit by the economic downturn of 1873. Horatio planned to travel to England by way of France with his family, but his voyage was delayed due to zoning problems with his real estate following the fire. He sent his family ahead and planned to join them in England. Horatio died in 1880 at the age of 52.

Horatio Spafford's Original Manuscript

Methodist Hymnal

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