William was born in Grainger Co, Tennessee to John Blackburn and Jemima Bolton. Since east Tennessee was burned, DNA was used to prove this connection. William migrated with his Bolton cousins to Franklin Co, Indiana where he married Susan Bolton. He was a farmer and moved his family to various places in Indiana, Nebraska, and finally to Oregon, Missouri, where he died of tuberculosis at the age of 74.
His obituary reads as follows: Blackburn, William - died 24 Oct 1888 at the home of his son, Thomas, near Oregon, Mo., from consumption (tuberculosis). He was born in East Tenn., 11 May 1814 and moved to Missouri in 1880. Burial was at Oregon, Mo.