William Turner built the Cedar Oaks house in 1859 and used it as his personal residence. In 1862, soon after the building's construction, the city of Oxford was occupied by federal troops. The troops were under the command of generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, two federal generals during the Civil War. Two years later, the house was damaged in a fire when Major General Andrew Jackson Smith set fire to many of Oxford's buildings in 1864. Although the town square faced the worst of the damage, the fire reached the Cedar Oaks house as well. It was then that Molly Turner Orr, William Turner's sister, saved the house by organizing a fire brigade. Molly and the others were able to put out the fire and prevent further damage to the house, preserving the home of her brother.
In 1963, almost a century after the Cedar Oaks house was saved from the fire, the house narrowly avoided destruction once again. The house was originally built on North Lamar Boulevard. In 1963, the house was set to be destroyed for business development in the area. In order to save the house, Mary Alice Tate gathered the members of both the Centennial and Cosmopolitan clubs. Together with the two clubs, Tate raised money to move the house from its original location and save it from business development. After raising money and borrowing $10,000, Tate and the others were able to afford the cost of moving the Cedar Oaks house. The house was moved 2.2 miles from its original location to 601 Murray Drive, where it remains today. After the move, the two clubs continued to work together to maintain the house for almost 50 years. Management of the house was finally given to the city of Oxford in 2010. In recognition of her efforts to save the Cedar Oaks house, Mary Alice Tate is known locally as the patron saint of Cedar Oaks.