Here's a bit of local river history with a literary twist.
As a steamboat made its way on the river the leadsman stood on the bow and sang the depth soundings to the pilot.
It went like this:
Mark Twain - twelve feet (two fathoms, or safe water)
Quarter Twain - thirteen and one-half feet
Half Twain - fifteen feet
Quarter Less Three - sixteen and one-half feet
Mark Three - eighteen feet (three fathoms)
Quarter Three - nineteen and one-half feet
Half Three - twenty-one feet
Quarter Less Four - twenty-two and one-half feet
Mark Four (or Deep Four) - twenty-four feet (four fathoms)
No Bottom - over twenty-four feet
But first, more about Robbins and his family.
Robbins, born in 1812 and a native of New York State, came to New Madrid County in the 1830s. His first employment was teaching school, and he later began operating a trading boat down the Mississippi. With the profits from that venture he opened a store in Point Pleasant.
By the time Twain began working on the river, Robbins and his family lived on a plantation near Point Pleasant. The two became friends, as illustrated by the story that Twain once stopped his boat at the plantation and had the boat's cook take a freshly baked cake to Robbins' young daughter, Myra. Nancy Miriam "Myra" Robbins, the third child of James and Susan Robbins, was born in 1848 and would have been about 12 years old when Twain sent her the cake. This incident was told to Marshal Dial in the early 1960s by Myra's great-niece, Myra Ransburgh.
But such pleasantries on the river came to a sudden halt in 1861 when the Civil War erupted. Twain went west to Nevada to work for his brother, Orion. The following year, Robbins moved his family to St. Louis where Myra grew into a beautiful young lady of society.
At some point, according to Ransburg, Twain approached Myra's father about courting her. He was promptly rebuffed by Robbins telling Twain that "he didn't think much of river men." This story gains considerable credibility as Twain's affection for Myra was recalled by the granddaughter of one of Robbins partner's, Agnes Bowen, who recounted "a family tradition that Miriam [Myra}, the daughter of Mrs. Robbins, was one of Clemens's 'sweethearts,' and something of a beauty."
Twain's closeness to the James K. Robbins family is further suggested by his selection of the name "Old Robbins" for one of his characters in his "Grandfather's Ram" story in Roughing It.
But, more surprisingly, at least one Twain scholar suggests that Myra Robbins was Twain's inspiration, in part, for the Tom Sawyer's girlfriend, Becky Thatcher.
Twain's across the street neighbor and childhood sweetheart Anna Laura Hawkins has always had the best claim as being the inspiration for the fictional character Becky Thatcher, but clearly Twain also had his eyes and dreams on Myra Robbins before he penned Tom Sawyer. And, she certainly looks the part.