‘River Dave’ arrested after returning to live at New Hampshire cabin site


This undated photo provided by Jodie Gedeon shows David Lidstone, 81. Jodie Gédéon via AP

CONCORD, NH (AP) – A former New Hampshire hermit whose cabin in the woods burned down after nearly three decades on the property he was ordered to vacate has again been charged with trespassing, turning a shed which survived the fire in a makeshift house equipped with a wood stove.

  • ‘River Dave’ doesn’t think he can become a hermit again

There had been a surge of support for David Lidstone, 81, – better known as “River Dave” – ​​since he was arrested in July and charged with squatting property owned by a Vermont man. His cabin burned down in August while he was imprisoned.

Lidstone was a local celebrity for boaters and kayakers on the Merrimack River before his land dispute caught the attention of the masses, raising over $ 200,000 in donations to help him start a new law-abiding life.

Lidstone, who was grateful for the support, had secured temporary accommodation as he searched for where to live next and believed he could not become a hermit again.

But he returned to the Canterbury site at the end of November, transforming the lumber shed into a house. He was arrested for trespassing on December 14 and is due in court in March.

“Sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right,” Lidstone told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on the site Tuesday. “I am 81 years old, I have nothing to lose.”

Lidstone is a professional lumberjack who chopped his firewood and grew his food in the woods along the river. The property, undeveloped and mainly used for timber harvesting, has been in the same family since 1963. Lidstone had claimed that years ago the father of the current owner gave his word – but nothing in writing – allowing him to live there.

Over the summer he was jailed for civil contempt and was told he would be released if he agreed to leave the cabin following a land dispute that dates back to 2016. The landowner, Leonard Giles, 86, of South Burlington, Vermont, wanted Lidstone to leave the property.

“We will let the court settle the matter,” Lisa Snow Wade, attorney for Giles, said on Tuesday of Lidstone’s arrest.

In the summer, the two sides agreed to make arrangements for Lidstone to collect their cats and chickens and any remaining property at the site. Lidstone also received permission to hire a land surveyor to give him “peace of mind,” Judge Andrew Schulman said. Lidstone said on Tuesday he had yet to get someone to come over to survey the pitch.

A fire destroyed the cabin on August 4, hours after Lidstone defended himself in a court hearing. He was released from jail the next day after the judge ruled he would have less incentive to go back to “that particular place in the woods” now that the cabin had burned down.

Canterbury Fire Chief Michael Gamache said the blaze was caused by accident. He said a representative for Giles who began tearing down the cabin on August 4 deactivated the solar panels, which still contained an electrical charge. He also used an electric saw to cut metal brackets that held the panels to the roof. Either action could have created sparks to start smoking things up.

“What can I say, Dave is the happiest place he’s been,” Jodie Gedeon, a kayaker who has known Lidstone for years, said on Facebook. “He loves being in nature and what you would call a free bird. … We are still planning to build or buy a house in the spring.

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