Nearby to Cabri, you will find the Great Sandhills and their origin dates back to before the Indigenous even arrived in the area. This area covers 1,900 square kilometres of active desert-like sand dunes that really stand out on the landscape.
The origin of the sand hills is thanks to the huge ice sheets that covered the landscape 15,000 years ago. At its peak, the ice sheet was two kilometres thick. As the ice sheets started to melt 12,000 years ago, they created huge lakes in the area of Cabri today. The melting ice sheet also dropped huge amounts of sand that it had accumulated as it moved across the landscape. The South Saskatchewan Spillway also formed, creating what would be the South Saskatchewan River Valley. As it drained and lost its connection with Lake Bursary, a lake that no longer exists, the sand deltas built up and the river began to change course. As it changed course, it left the huge sand dunes.
I have visited this area and the sand dunes are extremely impressive. They stand upwards of 80-100 feet in the air and you can even take a sled down the dunes. If you are ever in the area, absolutely check them out, you won’t be sorry.
Before Europeans settled in southwest Saskatchewan, and even before the Metis arrived, the land that Cabri occupies was the home to several Indigenous groups. The primary groups found in the area were the Blackfoot and the Cree.
The bison would migrate through the area and provided an incredibly important resource for the Indigenous. In fact, nearby to Cabri, there is the Standing Rock, which is a glacial erratic measuring in at 3.35 metres high and 9.14 metres long. It was at this rock that bison would often stop to rub against the stone to relieve itching.
The pronghorn was also a very important resource for the Indigenous of the area. It is from the pronghorn that the name of the community actually comes from. Local folklore states that the name of Cabri comes from the Indigenous word for antelope. There is also the belief that the name comes from the Latin word for the genus of the pronghorn, Antilocapridae. A third origin is that the Metis believed the pronghorn looked like a goat and called it the French word for goat, Cabri.
The ironic thing is that the pronghorn is not an antelope, nor a goat. In fact, its closest living relative is the giraffe.
I lived in the Cabri area for several years, and these mammals are everywhere. You often see large herds of them walking down the road, or eating in fields.
In 1912, the Cabri ferry started operating along the South Saskatchewan River, in between Cabri and the Town of Kyle.
Settlers would arrive in nearby Swift Current and travel up to the area to take advantage of the ample farmland in the area. In 1912, Cabri was incorporated as a village and five years later, it became a town.
In any community, one of the places that tends to be the oldest in terms of buildings is a church. Churches are often one of the first things built in a community, after a school and post office and before the hockey rink.
In Cabri, the Anglican Church dates back over 100 years and is one of the oldest churches in the entire area. When Cabri was still just forming, the church was built in 1913 to serve the Christian Reformed congregation out of Cramersburg, which was a settlement of Dutch immigrants located northwest of Cabri. The inside of the church was created with a modest design and restrained interior to reflect the economic realities of the pioneers, along with their sobriety, simplicity and humility.
Unfortunately, a series of crop failures and poor grain prices caused Cramersburg to eventually disappear but that loss was the gain of Cabri.
The Cabri Anglican delegation would purchase the building and have it moved to its present site in 1923. From that year until 1978, it served the community as the St. Andrew’s Church. Since that year, the church has continued as a symbol of the remembrance of the people who came to Cabri in those early years, while also serving as a place for the occasional wedding.
The building would become a Municipal Historic Resource on Feb. 24, 2005.
On Oct. 25, 1918, a man named Bobby Gimby was born in Cabri to a musical family that ran the hardware store in the community. The family would remain in Cabri until the store was destroyed by fire, at which point they moved to British Columbia to be closer to relatives. In 1944, Gimby moved to Toronto and formed his own band that was popular at teen events throughout the decade. In 1945, he joined the radio program Happy Gang, remaining with the show until 1959. In 1949, he was also given his own radio show on CBC Radio, eventually venturing into television with the CBC.
As time went on, due to the fact that he played the trumpet, Gimby became known as the Pied Piper of Canada. He would embrace this by wearing a Pied Piper costume and cape.
In 1967, he reached the zenith of his fame when he composed the song CA-NA-DA, which commemorated the Canadian Centennial. That year, more than 50 recordings of the song were made across Canada, with another 250 Canadian school choirs also recording it. The song began to grow more popular than the actual Canadian Centennial song and today is known as the unofficial Centennial Song. That year, it sold an unprecedented 270,000 copies, making it the most successful single in Canada for that year. In 1971, he would donate all future royalties of the song to the Boy Scouts of Canada.
In 1968, Gimby was awarded the Order of Canada.
Gimby would pass away in 1998 at the age of 79 in a nursing home in North Bay, Ontario.
In 1919, on land about 15 kilometres south of Cabri, the St. John’s Lutheran Church and Cemetery was built. Situated on a small rise of land, the church would become a prominent feature on the open prairie landscape. It was one of the first churches built in the area, for a congregation that had been organized in 1912. After holding services in the homes of local setters for years, the church would be built to accommodate the growing congregation. Services would continue in the church until 1976, but it is still used for weddings and funerals. The cemetery is also maintained by volunteers. In 1989, due to its heritage, the church was made a Municipal Heritage Property.
If you would like to learn more about the history of Cabri, then you can check out the Cabri and District Museum. This museum features displays that highlight entire history of the area and the development of Cabri. It also focuses on the history of the Indigenous with several pre-colonial artifacts. There is also a natural history display, a dairy display and many military uniforms. I have visited this museum and it is an excellent museum to check out to learn about the history of the area.