The Cherokee Nation controlled the region during the 19th century. After the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad laid tracks in the early 1880s, the community became a cow town, with the establishment of William Halsell's Bird Creek Ranch. In 1883, the Federal Government opened a post office here.
The name of the city is derived from the Cherokee language, phonetically pronounced "Ga-du-si" or "Ga-tu-si". Various interpretations of this word exist, including: "between two hills", "on the hill", "into the hills", and possibly signifying a prominent hill or place thereon.
Catoosa was home to Bluford "Blue" Duck, the infamous outlaw depicted in Lonesome Dove. He is buried in Dick Duck Cemetery located at the intersection of 193rd and Pine street.
The town grew from a population of 241 in 1900 to 410 by 1910. The local economy included a grain elevator, a cotton gin and mill, a marble works and some coal mines By 1930, the population was back down to 264, but by 1960, was up to 638.
In 1971, the Tulsa Port Of Catossa opened and gave the town an economic boom. The port's 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) industrial park provided jobs for over 2,600 workers by the 21st century. As of December 2013, it had 70 businesses with over 4,000 workers. The port connects to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico via the McClellan-Kirr Arkansas Rive Navigation System.
On the evening of April 24, 1993, the town was struck by an F4 tornado. Seven people were left dead in the tornado's wake, with six of the fatalities at a truck stop and one in a trailer park. In the aftermath of the tornado, which caused an estimated $500,000 in damage, 100 National Guard troops were deployed by Governor David Walters.