Carroll was born in St. Flavie, Quebec, Canada on July 14, 1873. He attended local schools and was brought up speaking only French. As a 12 year old, he came to Minneapolis to visit his uncle – a visit that lasted three years. During that time, he attended the Lincoln School in Minneapolis and learned to speak English. He also worked, part-time, at the Bemis Bag Factory and delivered messages for Western Union – using a bicycle!
He returned to Canada and learned telegraphy at the railroad station near his home. Leaving Canada again, he obtained work as a telegraph operator for the Great Northern Railroad at Stanley, North Dakota. He later went to Fort Benton, Montana, and then to Butte, Montana.
After being laid off in 1896, he returned to the Twin Cities and started working for the Shevalling Carpenter Saw Mill. He gained employment with the Northern Pacific Railroad as a telegraph operator in September 1897 at Carlton, Minnesota and then to Duluth, Cloquet, Rutledge, Hinckley, Rush City and White Bear Lake.
On June 30, 1902, He was married to Margaret McElroy at Carlton, Minnesota.
In February 1903, he Carroll was appointed to be in charge of the Union Depot in Stillwater and moved to Stillwater with his family.
For the next forty-five years, Carroll was the ticket agent and more for the people of Stillwater. In 1936, he moved his family, his wife and 10 children, into the depot apartment on the second floor. In the early years, the depot sold tickets to lumber companies for lumberjacks coming back from the winter camps. The depot also sold tickets for the Cunard line of Steamships for vacations. The Carroll family would live in the depot for the next twelve years.
One of the more important things that individuals could do is to be polite, Carroll once mentioned. “During the years that I have been selling tickets in Stillwater,” Carroll said, “I have answered a number of foolish questions which if tabulated would reach into the several million mark, but in order to keep the records straight and also be polite and accommodating, it is necessary to answer all of these and explain all of the smallest details regarding a trip over any of the roads running out of Stillwater, whether it be for a trip to the Twin Cities or around the world.”
In the depot was a café, and in 1934 Morrie Crotto took charge of the café. A couple of years later, Mark Carroll, Joe’s son, entered employment with Crotto and the two continued to operate the café “They made a real success of the business; with the sale of the bus line tickets, brought in lots of activity to the depot, but did not help its revenues,” Carroll would later write. “In later years, Mr. Crotto pulled out of the depot and for a number of years operated a restaurant on the Main Street until his retirement.”
“Papa” Joe Carroll retired from the Union Depot in 1948 at the age of 75. Walter Heusby who replaced Carroll in 1948, worked until passenger service was discontinued at the depot in 1954.
Carroll wrote and published a book entitled, “Exploring the Great Northwest and the St. Croix Valley,” in 1970 – the year he turned 97 years old. In 1973, when he turned 100 years old, he was the Grand Marshal of the Lumberjack Days Parade and a large celebration for him was held at the Lowell Inn.
On March 11, 1979, just a few months before his 106th birthday, “Papa” Joe Carroll died. Service was held at St. Michael’s Church and he was buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery.