Hymn #438: When Peace, like a River (It Is Well with My Soul)

Horatio G. Spafford (1928-1888) wrote this text as a source of comfort after learning that his four daughters had been drowned when the ship Ville du Havre collided with another ship en route to England in 1873.  Spafford's wife was the only family member on board to survive.


Horatio G. Spafford was a Chicago, Illinois, attorney who lost all his holdings in the Chicago fire of 1871.  Yet he helped evangelist Dwight L. Moody rebuild the North Side Tabernacle, the first building reconstructed after this terrible fire.

Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876) was given this text by Horatio Spafford, his neighbor on May Street in Chicago, Illinois.  Spafford asked him to provide a melody for it.  The resulting song was included in Gospel Hymns No. 2 (1876) complied by Bliss and Ira Sankey.   The tune is named VILLE DU HAVRE after the ship on which Spafford's daughters died.


Philip P. Bliss was born in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, on July 9, 1838.  In Chicago, Illinois, he joined the evangelical ministry of Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey.  Bliss became one of the most prolific songwriters of his generation.  He and his wife died in 1876 in a train accident in Ohio.