The story of the Great Ipswich Fright on April 21, 1775 was widely told, and memorialized by John Greenleaf Whittier. Mrs. Alice P. Tenney in 1933 provided an amusing story of the fear that struck Rooty Plain, also called “Millwood,” a thriving little mill community along today’s Rt. 133 in Rowley:
“News arrived in Rooty Plain that the Regulars had come in to Ipswich, and every man in Rooty Plain was called for to meet the enemy. Mr. Phillips was out in his field with his team; he left the team for the boys to take care of, and went into the house and asked for a pair of clean stockings. Said his wife to him, “Why what is the matter!” “Matter enough,” he replied. “The regulars have come into Ipswich!” And forthwith he and all men in the aforesaid Rooty Plains started out to meet the foe.
One old lady, a Mrs. Wood started from Woods Hill and travelled to Col. Adams beyond Georgetown corner carrying with her a gun that had no lock; probably to defend herself in case of an attack from the invading foe. The women in Rooty Plain being deprived of the protection of their liege lords, resolved to get together in some out-of-the-way place and spend the night. So a Mrs. Woodbury took old Mrs. Hopkins, aged more than ninety years and not being able to walk, and placed her on some kind of a vehicle and hauled her up as far as Straight Rock and left her while she went to see Mrs. Phillips, and invite her to join her party in going to a Mrs. Lancaster’s house, which they considered about as far out of the way as was possible for them to get.
Mrs. Phillips thought at first she could not leave her house, but the children pleaded so hard with her to go, she at length consented to go if they would eat their supper first. So they ate a little, and then with Mrs. Woodbury they went back where she left the old lady. After Mrs. Phillips started she stopped and looked back to see her house, thinking before morning it might be laid in ashes.
They started on their way with old Lady Hopkins, far out of the way. When they reached great Rock Brook, they met Mrs. Lancaster’s family with their ox team, carrying beds, bedding and food, for they were trying to flee from the enemy, so they were going into the woods to spend the night; but when the met their neighbors, that were going to their house, thinking that the safest place. So Mrs. Lancaster’s family turned their team and went home with them. After they reached their place of destination, they hung quilts up to the windows to exclude all light. Children were put to bed, while the old folks sat up and waited for the enemy to come.
Daylight came at length, but no enemy; and they began to be impatient. Mrs. Woodbury began to think she would like to see what had become of her house; so she and two young ladies started out across the pasture to see what was to be seen. They came in sight of the house, and it was just as it was left on the preceding night. They passed on a little farther, and saw one lone man came riding very fast. They began to ask each ether, if it was best to speak him, or let him pass, but finally came to the conclusion it was only one man, and they would speak. It was Mr. Woodbury come to tell them that the regulars had not come into Ipswich.
The alarm was caused by a few innocent sheep that were pastured on the Great Neck.
Thus fled all the inhabitants of Rooty Plain that lived on or near the road, with the exception of one aged man, Mr. Stephen Dresser. He thought he would sit down a while and smoke his pipe, and wait for the enemy. So he smoked and waited but they didn’t come. He smoked again and waited, but they didn’t come. Smoked again and went to bed, and had quit a comfortable nights sleep.”