It is a cold January morning in 1796 when a ship docks in Boston Harbor. Among its passengers is an English theatre troupe that includes their leader, Mrs. Elizabeth Arnold, and her young daughter, Betty. Hired by Charles Stuart Powell for the reopening of a Boston theatre, the troupe makes their way to the theater with baggage in tow. A new life is about to begin.
A short time later, the troupe is unpacked and ready for opening night. As Mrs. Arnold makes her stage debut in America, Betty meets John Howard Payne, a precocious young man who introduces her to an exciting world she never knew existed. After her mother takes her troupe on a summer tour, Betty makes her own stage debut to rave reviews. But when a horrifying accident suddenly takes the life of her mother, a now fourteen-year-old Betty, who now goes by Elizabeth, has no idea that her destiny will soon lead her to a secret affair, two marriages, and to become the mother of three children, one being Edgar Allen Poe.
Morning 1808 interweaves the adventures of a nineteenth century theatre troupe with a young woman's journey of self-discovery in America as she learns to survive on her own and attempts to make her dreams come true.