June 19, 1991
By: Jonesborough Genealogical Society
Dr. Blackburn was one of the most outstanding pioneer preachers. He was born in 1772 in Virginia. Early in life he came with his parents to Washington County, Tennessee. He was educated at Martin Academy under Dr. Doak, and studied theology at Dandridge under Dr. Robert Henderson His career in the ministry began in 1792. He married his cousin, Grizzel Blackburn, in 1793. They were the parents of eleven children.
His first ministry was to a company of soldiers at a fort near what is now Maryville. He erected for himself a log house and also a log house for public worship. He went from fort to fort with the soldiers who were protecting the settlers from Indian attacks. He carried his Bible and Hymnbook, as well as knapsack and rifle. New Providence and Eusebia churches were pastored by him. All of his preaching was with great zeal. He moved to Maury County in 1810, where he preached at Ebenezer. Later he moved to Franklin and established Harpeth Academy. He established a number of churches in this section, among them First Presbyterian Church of Nashville.
He was tall, with dark hair and pale skin. His eyes blazed as he preached the word. He traveled all over the country preaching, sometimes standing on crutches as he was a victim of white swelling in one leg. He died at Carlinville, Illinois, August 23, 1838, at age sixty six. Two of his sons became successful ministers, and a third died while studying theology.
Jo Conn Guild, writing in Old Times in Tennessee, has this to say: “His name is enrolled in the temple of fame. Few American orators have showed themselves his equal.”