He was a prominent Lawyer, a senior partner in a thriving Law firm who had invested heavily in Real Estate. However, when the great fire of Chicago reduced the city to ashes it destroyed most of his sizeable investment with it. Two years later, he decided to take his wife and four daughters to Europe for a holiday but at the last moment was delayed because of business. Anna and their four girls, Tanetta, Elizabeth, Margaret and little Anna went on ahead.
On the 22nd of November 1873, while crossing the Atlantic the ship collided with another vessel. It sank in only twelve minutes and 226 lives were lost. Anna was one of only 27 people who survived. She was saved only because her unconscious body was kept afloat by a plank of wood beneath her. On receiving a cable from Anna, Horatio G Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York and at a time of great personal tragedy, penned the words of the well known hymn, ‘It is well with my soul’.
When peace like a river attendeth my way.
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, It is well with my soul.
The story of Horatio came flooding back to me when we sang the hymn in church on Sunday morning. His story always touched my heart, maybe because we had four daughters and I wondered how we would respond in such circumstances. Horatio had been inspired by the account of Elisha and the Shunemite woman, in 2 Kings 4:26. The woman, even though her precious, one and only, son had just passed away, responded to Elisha’s query as to her well-being with the words, ’It is well.’
Horatio Spafford and his wife were to later lose a son to chicken pox at the age of four however it didn’t stop them and their two new daughters from moving with others to Jerusalem. They spent their remaining years helping the poor of all faiths, Jew, Christian and Muslim, laying the foundations for what would eventually become the Spafford Children’s Centre, which still exists today.
The Cable from Anna stating ‘Saved alone what shall I do’.