‘River Dave’ secures housing for the winter after New Hampshire cabin burned down

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David Lidstone, an off-the-grid New Hampshire hermit known to locals as “River Dave,” doffs his hat after speaking to media outside Merrimack County Superior Court after a status conference hearing, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Concord, N.H. The court determined that Lidstone will be able to collect his cats, chickens, and remaining possessions from the site he has lived on for 27 years. Lidstone, who still believes he was not on private land, also was given permission to hire a surveyor to give him “peace of mind,” Judge Andrew Schulman said. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

(NEXSTAR) — An off-the-grid New Hampshire hermit known as “River Dave” is no longer homeless.

One of his supporters posted on social media that temporary housing has been secured for David Lidstone through the winter while he decides whether to rebuild his cabin or accept some other housing.

The location is being kept secret to protect Lidstone’s privacy, Jodie Gedeon wrote in a statement. There has been an outpouring of support for Lidstone after he was evicted by a landowner and jailed before his cabin burned down.

The 81-year-old Lidstone lived in the woods of New Hampshire along the Merrimack River in a small cabin adorned with solar panels for nearly three decades. He grew his own food, cut his own firewood and tended to his pets and chickens.

His off-the-grid existence has been challenged in court by a property owner who says he’s been squatting for all those years. And to make Lidstone’s matters worse, his cabin burned to the ground in early August in a blaze that is being investigated by local authorities.

The woodlot Lidstone called home was just a few miles away from Interstate 93. But it was hidden by the trees; it’s on 73 acres that’s been used for timber harvests. The property has been owned by the same family since 1963. There are no plans at this time to develop it.

The owner of the land had been seeking to tear down the cabin before the fire.

Lidstone has claimed that years ago, the owner gave his word — but nothing in writing — allowing him to live there. But in the eyes of the current owner, he’s a squatter and needs to go.

Current owner Leonard Giles, 86, of South Burlington, Vermont, didn’t even know Lidstone was there until the town administrator found out in 2015 and told him, expressing concern “with regard to the solid and septic waste disposal and the potential zoning violations created by the structure,” according to Giles’ complaint in 2016.

Canterbury Fire Chief Michael Gamache said that while the investigation isn’t over and arson is not being ruled out as a potential cause, the fire was more likely caused by accident. He said a representative of Giles who was starting to demolish the cabin on Aug. 4 disabled solar panels, which still had electrical charge in them. He also used a power saw to cut into metal supports that held the panels onto the roof. Either action could have created sparks to start making things smoke.

“He finished his day at about a quarter of three, and a fire is noticed at about 3:15,” Gamache said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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