Thank you all for your replies.
Eliphaz, as it turns out, diagonal stays were indeed used in locomotive boilers. For the record, this piece is just over 15' in length, and appears to be the top 1/3 of the boiler drum. After calculations, the diameter would have been 44" with a circumference of about 132". There are very clear markings on one end that show where the sand dome was once positioned. There is also the threaded attachment for the bell, right behind where the stack was removed. The ragged end, when straightened, is the scalloped edge opening for the stack. I cannot say for sure what was carried on the sides but I can say for sure this was indeed part of a locomotive, most likely a Shay.
After much research and a few lucky breaks, I have been able to verify the railbed beside which this was found. The levee for the Mississippi River broke just near this spot (less than a mile away) in 1912. After the flood waters receded, levee re-building was done and extensive rail lines were laid in this area. There are numerous photos that may or may not show the exact location, actually. The rail never showed on a map because it was for repair and because it was largely destroyed in the historic flood on 1927 which broke just a little further south of this location. There are records of Shay and other locomotives sold in this area and across the River. There had been a transfer ferry out of this county over to Arkansas City and it would have been possible for this to have come from there originally. I cannot say for certain how the piece got to its location, but I can say it was submerged at one time because of what all I have been able to extract from it.
The piece does in fact, fit to a T a diagram of a Shay that would have been built just after 1900. At that time, this was big, virgin timber country and many, many operations had geared locomotives and sawmills located along their "spur" lines. This location had a flagstop about 100 yards from it, but the biggest clue was the levee and the rebuilding and the photos. Since I posted the first time, several other artifacts have been recovered other than the piece and the 30' piece of narrow gauge rail. Rail plates, spikes, more rail, and brake assembly pieces off a locomotive. Too soon to be absolutely certain the brake parts belong to my piece, but it looks that way.
I don't know what the pieces on the sides of the boiler were for, but I am 99.9% certain that they were not for a brick wall. After much research or timber companies in the area and even steam powered cotton gins, this piece still does not fit that mold. After checking with the continuously operating implement dealers, of which we have several, none of them believe it to be off a tractor, either. No records or recollections of anyone here having a steam tractor that would have taken a 15' foot long boiler. I have had several people look at the piece and all agree, it is off a locomotive.
All indications are that it was submerged in the flood of 1912, ruined, scrapped, used for whatever. However, I am going back and will be looking for more clues. It may not be a Shay, but most likely it is. After ruling out anything else it could be, then matching what I have with locomotives from the 40 year period of 1890 to 1930, I am certain it is from a steam locomotive. And no, it was not and will not be used for a catfish grill. Many of our artifacts were scrapped after years of flooding and the railroads began leaving us during WWII. The mechanization of farming is one major reason for population decline and by 1965, the passenger service was discontinued. Freight remained and I guess no one ever dreamed that after 100 years of having train service that one day the railroad company would abandon the lines.
In the years from 1941 to just a few years ago, there was no effort to preserve this history. It may not look like much to some of you, but to me it is a huge find. I do not wish to make it a locomotive boiler if it is not, but I have done the work and I believe it to be, and so do older train engineers and one Miss. Power & Light Delta Steam Electric Station Plant Operator--my dad. He is 84 but he knew it when he saw it and so did the others. I am still in hopes that I find a manufaturer's mark other than the scalloped edge cuttings and that I find some more pieces and parts. Thank you.
Edited by a Moderator (paragraphing) 28 May 2012 338PM CDT