ELDERSBURG -- A lifelong fascination with the past has led to a small place in history for Diana K. Scott.
The 40-page biography she wrote of a 19th-century plantation owner was published last month by the Fluvanna County Historical Society in Palmyra, Va.
Louisa Maxwell Holmes Cocke, Mrs. Scott's subject, was the wife of a general who owned a large central Virginia plantation. She did most of the day-to-day running of the farm during her husband's frequent absences. She raised his six children from a previous marriage.
As she carefully turned pages of Mrs. Cocke's diaries, preserved at the University of Virginia library, Mrs. Scott found the woman to be ahead of her time, which was 1788-1843.
Mrs. Cocke did such modern things as exercise, teach school for the black slave children on her plantation as well as for the white children, and even argue with her husband, Mrs. Scott said, although she would always regret it later in her diary.
"She would say, 'I must learn to hold my tongue,' " Mrs. Scott said.
Mrs. Scott gets no royalties for her book, but the pure joy of being immortalized by the publication of a book was the reward she wanted, she said.
"One of my goals in life [was] to be published," said Mrs. Scott, who lives on Oakland Road at the southeastern corner of Carroll County.
The book culminates almost one year of research and writing, including trips to the Virginia mansions and plantation grounds that are still owned by Mrs. Cocke's descendants. Most of the property is preserved as historic grounds, with some areas open to the public and to architecture students.
"It is an architectural gem -- it rivals Monticello," Mrs. Scott said of the Cocke home. As she walked the great halls, she said, "I could just envision her leaving the house, walking across to the schoolhouse."
At her own home, Mrs. Scott would look out on nearby Liberty Reservoir and imagine Mrs. Cocke rowing for exercise. The woman also played badminton and jumped rope.
"It's so neat to be able to delve into people's lives," she said. "I became very close to this woman."
Mrs. Scott learned of the Fluvanna County Historical Society's publishing activity through a former co-worker at Carroll Community College, where she works in public relations.
When the society offered Mrs. Scott several topics from which to choose, she picked Louisa Maxwell Holmes Cocke.
"I like people, so a biography was actually more appealing to me," Mrs. Scott said.
Mrs. Scott pursued a college degree for the first time when she was 38, after her two sons were in middle and high school.
She took classes part time until she earned an associate's degree from Carroll Community College, and four years ago she transferred to Towson State University.
Although this is her first published book, she has written pieces used by the Carroll County and Baltimore County historical societies and has served internships at both societies. She was raised in Woodlawn.
She and her husband, Charles, moved to Eldersburg in 1965.
Mrs. Scott expects to graduate from Towson State next spring with a bachelor of science degree in history, and to maintain her 4.0 grade point average.
"If I hadn't gone to school later in life, and really appreciated what I am doing, I don't think any of these things would have come about," she said.