Joshua is at the intersection of State Highway 174 and Farm Road 917, on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad seven miles southeast of Burleson and eight miles north of Cleburne in north central Johnson County. It is in the Cross Timbers region on land patented by W. W. Byers in 1867. The section was sold in 1874 to John Powell. Caddo Grove, two miles west of Joshua, was the first community in the area. It had its own post office and was a thriving town until the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway was completed from Cleburne to Fort Worth in 1881. The railroad missed Caddo Grove, and a station was built on the tracks at the site of future Joshua. The station was originally called Caddo Peak, but the name was rejected by the post office because of another Caddo Peak. The name Joshua was chosen, purportedly by Dr. D. B. McMillan, after the biblical Joshua. W. L. West was the first postmaster when the community received a post office in 1882. In 1883 Caddo Grove's post office was withdrawn.
The plat for Joshua was first surveyed in 1880, and the community was organized in 1881 when the railroad arrived. The first store, opened in 1882 by W. L. West, also housed the post office. By 1890 Joshua had a population of 300, two steam corn mill- cotton gins, a hotel, a general store, and a newspaper, the Johnson County Record. The railroad shipped farm produce, Joshua's largest export. The first one-room school opened in 1890, and in 1899 it moved into a new building. In 1917 this school became Joshua High School. In 1900 and 1912 Joshua suffered major fires. In spite of this, new businesses continued to open. The Citizen's Banking Company, opened in 1904, was run by J. W. Spencer. Two years later a public water system began. Truck gardens, orchards, and corn and cotton farms surrounded Joshua. In 1912 the Fort Worth South Traction Line began to provide service from Cleburne to Fort Worth and had a stop in Joshua. Service stopped in 1932 because of the growing importance of automobile travel. The first car in Joshua was purchased in 1913. By 1914 the community had a population of 824, two cotton gins, an ice plant, a bank, a newspaper named the Joshua Star, and four churches. Local farms grew cotton and potatoes. In the mid-1950s Joshua was incorporated, with Ted Strube as the first mayor. The population dropped to 550 during the 1950s and rose to 924 in 1970. By 1980 it was 1,470. Because of its proximity to Fort Worth, the population grew to 3,828 by 1990 and 4,528 by 2000. Joshua had fourteen businesses in 1970 and fifty-eight in 1980, when seven local manufacturers made such items as aluminum products, boat trailers, leather goods, and windows. The Joshua Tribune began publication in 1970 and was published until the early 1990s, when it moved to Burleson. By 2000 Joshua reported 239 businesses.