When elder brothers Newton, James, and Virgil went off to the American Civil War, they left their young teenage brothers Wyatt and Morgan to tend the family farm. The two brothers grew up close, with a shared wish for adventure and a dislike of farming. In adulthood, Morgan followed Wyatt on the Western frontier.
In 1874, Morgan was a police officer in Butte, Montana. It was at this time he allegedly killed his first man. As the legend goes, Billy Brooks, the former marshal of Dodge City, was in Butte, hoping to become marshal. When Morgan was appointed, Brooks resented it. Brooks called out Morgan and the two met in the street. Two shots were fired. Morgan was hit in the shoulder, but Brooks was mortally wounded in the stomach. However, no actual documentation exists except for the fact that Morgan was a police officer for a few months in Butte.
At different times, both Wyatt and Morgan worked as shotgun messengers for Wells Fargo & Co. and as deputy city marshals for Tombstone under their brother Virgil Earp, who was city marshal (or police chief). Morgan was eventually appointed to the federal post of special deputy U.S. marshal for the Arizona Territory, an office which Wyatt also later held.
Morgan has gained an undeserved reputation for being a hot-tempered man, but this appears to be on the basis of incidents related in the book The Earp Brothers of Tombstone purportedly written by Virgil Earp's wife Allie. However, the incidents in the book involving Morgan, like much else in the book, are almost certainly fabricated (see Barra, 1998, book postscript). From the rest of what is known of Morgan's life, he normally showed the same even temper and cool reactions to danger as did his brothers.
Morgan was deputized by his brother Virgil to serve as a special deputy, a city law-officer position equivalent to policeman, on October 17, 1881. This may have happened after a round of threats from the cowboys against the Earps. One of Morgan's first acts after becoming a city police officer was to travel to Tucson to find Doc Holliday on October 22 and bring him back in an attempt to avoid some trouble with Ike Clanton. Although he found Holliday, the attempt at avoiding trouble failed.
Clanton began making trouble in town on October 25, leading to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral on Wednesday, October 26. Of the Earp faction, Morgan was the least experienced, since it was his first gunfight. He participated in the gunfight and was wounded, hit by a bullet across the back and shoulders, but he recovered in seconds and continued to fire his pistol. Either Morgan or Doc Holliday, or both, ended the fight by killing Frank McLaury.
Two months after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in December 1881, Virgil Earp was seriously and permanently wounded in an assassination attempt. By February 1882, Morgan had seen enough of the general danger to the Earps in Tombstone and sent his common-law wife Louisa Houstin Earp to the Earps' parents in Colton, California. However, Morgan chose to remain in Tombstone to guard Virgil, support Wyatt, and continue to work in law enforcement.
Morgan was ambushed about 10 P.M. on Saturday, March 18, 1882. After going to see a musical, he went to play a late round of pool against owner Bob Hatch at the Campbell & Hatch Billiard Parlor on Allen Street, in Tombstone. There, while playing, he was hit by a rifle shot to the side of his lower back. An assassination attempt was also made at the same time on Wyatt Earp, who was watching the game, but the bullet missed.
The rifle shots entered the lighted billiard parlor through a glass-windowed locked door which opened from the rear of the parlor onto a dark alley, which ran between Allen and Fremont Streets, along the side of the parlor. The Campbell and Hatch Billiard parlor and card room no longer exists, having burned in a fire in May 1882. It was two lots east of Hafford's Saloon on 4th Street and Allen, which was re-built after the fire and may be seen today. An old photo said to be of the interior of the Campbell & Hatch billiard parlor room, is actually of another similar institution.
The bullet that hit Morgan shattered his spine and passed through his left kidney. The wound was pronounced fatal by the three doctors who examined him a short time later. After being shot, Morgan was unable to stand even with assistance, and said "This is the last game of pool I'll ever play." Wyatt reported in his biography years later that Morgan, before dying, whispered to Wyatt "I can't see a damned thing," a reference to supposed visions of Heaven seen by dying people, which Morgan and Wyatt had discussed on a previous occasion. To the last, Morgan's behavior is in keeping with what is known of him. He died less than an hour after being shot, while lying on a lounge in an adjoining card room of the billiard parlor, not on the billiard table, as some accounts report.
Morgan was likely shot by Clanton supporters, though none was formally charged with the crime. His death sent Wyatt on a three-week rampage in the country around Tombstone, sometimes referred to as the Earp Vendetta Ride, killing anyone Wyatt believed was connected to Morgan's death. Wyatt believed that former Johnny Behan deputy and accused stage-robber Frank Stilwell fired the shot that hit Morgan, while the shot which missed Wyatt was fired by William Brocius, a.k.a. "Curly Bill". Both Stilwell and Brocius were killed in the vendetta.
After Morgan's death, he was laid out in a blue suit belonging to his friend Doc Holliday. His body was then taken by wagon on the next day (Sunday) by family and friends to the nearest railhead, in Benson. From there, accompanied by older brother James Earp, Morgan's body was sent to his family in Colton, California. On the following day (Monday), Virgil and his wife were accompanied under family guard to Tucson, in a second expedition.
Morgan was first buried in the old city cemetery of Colton, near Mount Slover. When the cemetery was moved in 1892, Morgan's body was reburied in the Hermosa Cemetery in Colton. See burial site information here