The American Colony in Jerusalem, 1870-2006

American Colony in Jerusalem Timeline 1828-1980


1828, Oct. 20 

Birth of American Colony founder Horatio Gates Spafford, in Lansingburgh (North Troy), N.Y. (d. 1888). His father Horatio Gates Spafford, Sr., (b. 1778) was born in Vermont, in a family originating in Yorkshire, England. Named for the Revolutionary War general Horatio Gates, the  elder Spafford was an inventor and writer, author of a popular gazetteer of the state of New York.


Birth of Olof Henrik Larsson in Sweden (d. 1919). As the leader of a Swedish evangelical sect in Chicago, Larsson will head a contingent of devout Swedes living in America to join the American Colony in Jerusalem in 1896.

1842, Mar. 16 

Birth of American Colony founder Anna Tubena Larsson (Anne Tobine Larsdatter Øglende), Stavenger, Norway (d. 1923). Anna’s father Lars Larsson (Bjarne Lars Larsen Øglende) is a farmer and skilled cabinet and violin maker.


Anna T. Larsson (Øglende) emigrates from Norway to the United States with her family. Landing in New York, the family travels to Chicago, Ill., the gateway to the West, to settle among other Scandinavian immigrants. Anna’s father Americanizes the family name to “Lawson.”


Anna Lawson’s mother Tanetta and baby brother Hans die in a cholera epidemic in Chicago. Anna, age 7, remains in Chicago and attends Dearborn Academy at the generosity of family friend Sarah Ely. She excels at the school and is recognized for her musical ability. Her father homesteads in Minnesota with her ten-year-old half-brother Edward.


Anna Lawson moves to the family’s remote farm near Wanamingo, Minnesota, to keep house and care for her half-brother and their invalid father, who is dying from tuberculosis. After Lars Lawson passes away, Edward remains in Minnesota, while Anna returns to Chicago to live with her married half-sister Rachel Fredrickson. She finds work as a waitress.


Horatio Gates Spafford moves to Chicago. A Republican temperance and anti-slavery advocate, he supports Abraham Lincoln’s candidacy for the presidency and practices law in a private firm downtown. He is active in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in midtown, with its library, lectures, and literary clubs. He invests in real estate speculation, mining, and other ventures, and manages private trusts for clients as an executor.


Anna Lawson comes to the attention of Presbyterian Sunday School teacher Horatio Gates Spafford when she attends his class with a friend. Spafford is impressed by the teenager’s maturity and deft abilities in debate, as well as by her beauty. He begins to court her.


Anna Lawson is schooled at Ferry Institute for Young Ladies in Lake Forest, Ill. with financial help from Horatio Gates Spafford. She graduates in 1860. In 1859, Horatio begins teaching medical jurisprudence classes at what later will be Northwestern University.

1861, Sept. 5  

Horatio Gates Spafford and Anna Lawson marry at the Second Presbyterian Church in the South Side of Chicago. They take up residence in a home in Lake View on the northern outskirts of Chicago, with plans to begin a family.


During the Civil War, Horatio Gates Spafford works with the Christian Commission arm of the YMCA, while Anna Spafford volunteers with other women in fund-raising for the U.S. Sanitary Commission.


Births of Spafford daughters Anna (Annie) (b. 1862); Margaret (Maggie) (b. 1863); Elizabeth (Bessie) (b. 1866) and Tanetta (b. 1871), all of whom will perish together at sea in 1873.


Horatio Gates Spafford, from youth a poet and religious song writer, composes lyrics to hymns. He is part of a circle of evangelists and religious musicians in the Methodist tradition that includes composer P. P. Bliss, gospel musician Ira D. Sankey, and influential preacher and revivalist Dwight L. Moody. Spafford visits jails and hospitals as part of Moody’s group to offer evangelistic services. He observes revivalists in a trip to London, England, in 1870. Moody will play a part as a spiritual advisor and comforter when tragedy strikes the Spafford family in 1873.


German colony founded by South German Protestants from Würtemberg in Valley of Rephaim, Jerusalem.

1871, October                        

The Great Fire strikes Chicago, Ill., and destroys a large part of the city. Horatio Gates Spafford suffers serious financial reversals in his real estate and business investments, but the Spafford’s Lake View home is unscathed. The Spaffords offer refuge to friends fleeing the disaster.


The Spaffords' already challenged financial standing becomes increasingly precarious with the economic downturn of 1873.

Anna Spafford and her daughters depart for Europe from New York as passengers aboard the luxury ship Ville du Havre, while Horatio Gates Spafford stays temporarily behind to attend to business in Chicago. The pair plan to live abroad and educate the girls for a year in European schools. The Spafford traveling party includes a French governess for the children, Mlle Nicolet, and young William (Willie) Culver, the son of family friends from Chicago.


Horatio Gates Spafforddescriptive record icon enlarge image icon Portrait of Horatio Gates Spafford, ca. 1885.  Photo by G. Krikorian Studo, Jerusalem.  American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

Anna Spafford

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Anna Spafford, [Chicago, Illinois], ca. 1860s-1870s. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

Business card

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Business card of Spafford, McDaid  & Wilson, Chicago, Illinois. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

Tanetta Spafford

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Portrait of Tanetta Spafford. Image from photograph album owned by the Spafford Family. American Colony in Jerusalem Collection, Manuscript Division, LOC

Composite portraits of evangelists

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Composite portraits, The Evangelists (Dwight L. Moody, Mrs. P.P. Bliss, Ira Sankey, P. P. Bliss, D. W. Whittle, G. C. Stebbins and Henry Morehouse), ca. 1877.  Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-USZ62-60615

Fire on a waterfront

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon The great fire at Chicago, October 8th, 1871. Lithograph. New York: Currier & Ives, ca. 1871. Prints & Photographs Division, LOC, LC-DIG-pga-00762