Tag Archives: Horatio Spafford

Restoration in the Protestant Cemetery in Jerusalem

A little more than a year ago we wrote a few posts about the Protestant Cemetery in Jerusalem where several well know persons are buried. These include Horatio Spafford, the author of “It is Well With My Soul,” and several famous archaeologists. See here. Use the search box to locate more articles about the cemetery.

We also reported on the vandalism of the cemetery here. In most instances this consisted of crosses being broken from their base.

The Jerusalem University College, on whose campus the cemetery is situated, reports now that the Society for the Preservation and Restoration of Israel Heritage Sites recently restored the grave markers. See their Facebook page with more photos here.

Restoring damaged tomb stones in the Protestant Cemetery.

Restoring damaged tomb stones in the Protestant Cemetery.

HT: Rebekah Dutton

The Spafford grave in the Protestant Cemetery

How the Spaffords came to make Jerusalem their home is an interesting story, but I will leave it for you to read in Bertha Spafford Vester, Our Jerusalem: An American Family in the Holy City 1881–1949. It may be difficult to locate a copy of the book for a reasonable price, but it is available in Kindle format for $8.39. Click here: Our Jerusalem.

The members of the American Colony lived under a series of governments — the Turks, British, Jordanians, and Israelis. Horatio died in 1888 during the Turkish rule. The American Colony had secured a place for burials on the south eastern slope of the traditional Mount Zion overlooking the Hinnom Valley.

Before I can show you the grave marker of Horatio Spafford I should tell you about the desecration of his original grave. Toward the end of the 19th century, when the members of the American Colony needed a grave site, they learned that earlier burials had been removed and the remains placed “temporarily” in a large pit. After much effort, permission was granted by various ruling authorities for the bones to be gathered, and a small plot was granted for the burial of the American Colony members.

That small plot is pictured below. It is immediately inside the gate to the cemetery. The large marker identifies seven members of the American Colony whose remains were recovered: John C. Whiting; Horatio G. Spafford; William C. Sylvester; Herbert Drake; Margaret W. Lee; Geo. A. Fuller; John Miller. I have noticed at least four of these names in Vester’s Our Jerusalem. Whiting was also from Chicago. He and his family came to Jerusalem with the Spaffords, as did Margaret Lee.

Grave stone for Spafford and other members of the American Colony in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Grave stone for Spafford and other members of the American Colony in the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The two smaller markers in the wall identify others whose bones were recovered and buried in the common grave.

In 1896 a group of 37 Swedish farmers left Nås, Sweden, and made their way to Jerusalem. They took up residence at the American Colony. (Vester says there were 38, including 17 children, and a babe in arms. Perhaps the infant was born after leaving Sweden.) The Swedes mostly engaged in farming in the nearby Kidron Valley. I think you would enjoy reading the comment to the last post written by reader Erik Wold. You may see his photographs of Nås and read his Norwegian comments here (use Google Translate if you do not read Norwegian). The Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf won a Nobel prize for her novel called Jerusalem, which was based on the American Colony. Bertha Vester says that her mother, Anna Spafford, “is the heroine in her book and is called Mrs. Gordon.”

Something else that has fascinated me is the fact that Eric Matson and the American Colony photographers worked from this location. About 40 years ago I edited a series of Bible Class literature called Truth in Life. We used some of Eric Matson’s wonderful Bible land photographs in the series. For more information about the work of Matson and the other photographers see Life in the Holy Land. I think Matson was the heir of one of the settlers from Sweden.

I do not know anything about the present ownership of the American Colony Hotel, but it is a prestigious 5-star luxury hotel.

Entrance to the American Colony Hotel, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Entrance to the American Colony Hotel, Jerusalem. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Would you like to see more photographs from the Protestant Cemetery?

Horatio G. Spafford: “It Is Well With My Soul”

Last September I called attention here to the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion, Jerusalem. Several rather famous persons associated with archaeology and others who took up residence in Jerusalem have been buried there.

There seems to be a great amount of interest in the grave of Horatio Gates Spafford, the author of the well-known hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” Mr. Spafford was a well-known attorney in Chicago, but decided to give up his law practice and become involved in land sales. The great Chicago fire of October, 1871, brought many losses to Spafford.

Horatio G. Spafford

Horatio G. Spafford

At the advice of a physician, Spafford decided to take his wife, Anna, and their four little daughters to Europe. Reservations were made on the French ship S. S. Ville du Havre. While awaiting departure, Mr. Spafford received word that the man who was planning to buy a large parcel of land from him had died suddenly. Spafford could not tell his wife the bad news, but told her he needed to return to Chicago to take care of business. He would come as quickly as possible on a later crossing.

On the night of November 21, 1873, a British sailing ship rammed the Ville du Havre, resulting in the loss of many lives. The four little Spafford girls were lost at sea. When Anna Spafford reached land on another ship, she sent a cable to her husband with the words “Saved Alone.”

Horatio made plans to join his wife in England. As he made his way across the Atlantic, the captain called him and Mr. Goodwin into his private cabin.

“A careful reckoning has been made,” he told them, “and I believe we are now passing the place where the Ville du Havre was wrecked.”

Spafford returned to his cabin and wrote the words to the hymn that has given comfort to many believers in Jesus.

Handwritten lyrics of "It Is Well With My Soul."

Handwritten lyrics of “It Is Well With My Soul.”

Here are the lyrics, later put to music by Phillip P. Bliss.

  1. 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.

    • Refrain:
      It is well, with my soul,
      It is well, it is well, with my soul.
  2. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

The images I have used are from the Library of Congress exhibition about the American Colony, Jerusalem. See here.

The story I have recounted is that told by Bertha Spafford Vester, a daughter later born to the Spaffords, in her book, Our Jerusalem: An American Family in the Holy City 1881–1949.

In a post to follow I plan to show you the grave marker of Horatio Spafford and others associated with the work at the American Colony.