If you have time I recommend this you tube video of his song and the history behind it as well as this site about his history. I used both of these to gather the information I recorded below.
First of all did you know that Horatio Spafford was a lawyer that lived in Chicago with his wife and five children? And that in 1871 his one and only son died? And that within a few months later of that same year he lost all of his life savings that he had invested in real estate through the Great Chicago Fire? Did you know that two years later the Spafford's decided to take a vacation in Europe? Mr. Spafford was detained at the last minute due to unforseen business so he sent his wife and four daughters on ahead with the promise to follow shortly. On November 22, 1873 that ship that his wife and daughters were on was struck by an iron sailing vessel and 226 people were killed. When the survivors landed in Europe, Anna Spafford (his wife) sent the following cable :
Saved alone. What shall I do?...
Can you imagine? I mean seriously even wrap your mind around what that would be like? Both to have to send that cable and in receiving it? Spafford immediately left Chicago to bring his wife home and on the way to collect her the captain of the ship called him to his cabin to tell him they were passing over the spot where his four daughters had died. It is then, as they passed over this spot that Horatio penned the 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 has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul