An off-the-grid New Hampshire man’s days living as a hermit appear to be over.
‘River Dave,’ whose cabin in the woods burned down after nearly three decades on property where he had been squatting, says he doesn’t think he can return to his solitary lifestyle.
‘I don’t see how I can go back to being a hermit because society is not going to allow it,’ David Lidstone said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Lidstone, 81, said even if he could rebuild his cabin, which burned down last week, ‘I would have people coming every weekend, so I just can’t get out of society anymore. I’ve hidden too many years and I’ve built relationships, and those relationships have continued to expand.’
David Lidstone, 81, seen without his hat says it would be impossible for him to go back to his previous lifestyle after his shack was burnt to the ground
This undated photo provided by Jodie Gedeon shows the shack that David Lidstone, 81, has built and lived in for nearly three decades in the woods of Canterbury, N.H.
This undated photo provided by Jodie Gedeon shows the side of the shack that David Lidstone, 81, had built and lived in for nearly three decades in the woods near Canterbury, N.H.
This undated photo provided by Jodie Gedeon shows the shack that David Lidstone, 81, in detail as he lived comfortably by the Merrimack River for nearly three decades
But Lidstone, a logger by trade who chopped his firewood and grew his food in the woods along the Merrimack River in the town of Canterbury, said he’s not grieving the loss of his life in isolation.
‘Maybe the things I’ve been trying to avoid are the things that I really need in life,’ said Lidstone, who drifted apart from his family. ‘I grew up never being hugged or kissed, or any close contact.
‘I had somebody ask me once, about my wife: `Did you really love her?´ And the question kind of shocked me for a second. I… I´ve never loved anybody in my life. And I shocked myself because I hadn´t realized that. And that´s why I was a hermit. Now I can see love being expressed that I never had before.’
His hopeful words are in marked contrast to the fears of Lidstone’s friends, who worried the loss of the elderly man’s property and solitude could send him to the grave.
David Lidstone, 81, sits ear the Merrimack River, in Boscawen, New Hampshire, where he had been living in a cabin in the woods for nearly three decades
He was jailed on July 15 on a civil contempt sanction and was told he’d be released if he would agree to leave the cabin following a five-year property dispute that started in 2016.
The landowner, 86-year-old Leonard Giles, of South Burlington, Vermont, wanted Lidstone off the property.
The property, undeveloped and mostly used for timber harvests, has been owned by the same family since 1963.
Jodie Gedeon (left) hugs David Lidstone (right) on Thursday, August 5, after Lidstone was released from Merrimack County Jail in Boscawen for refusing to leave the property he was squatting on for the last 27 years
Lidstone had said a prior owner in the family gave his word years ago that he could live there, but had nothing in writing. A hearing to settle the matter is scheduled for 8.30am on Wednesday.
A fire destroyed the cabin on August 4, hours after Lidstone defended himself during a court hearing. He was released from jail the next day after a judge ruled that he would have less incentive to return to ‘this particular place in the woods,’ now that the cabin had burned down.
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.
Smoke rises from the burnt remains of a cabin in Canterbury, N.H., inhabited by 81-year-old David Lidstone. The picture was provided by the Canterbury Fire Department
He said a representative of Giles, who was starting to demolish the cabin on August 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.
He also said it’s also possible the results could be inconclusive. ‘Right now, there’s nothing left to go on at the site.’
Jodie Gedeon, who met Lidstone 20 years ago while she was kayaking along the Merrimack River, referred to Lidstone as a ‘really good soul.
‘We consider him part of the family.’ she added
An off-the-grid New Hampshire hermit known to locals as ‘River Dave,’ had been living in a cabin in the woods in Canterbury, N.H., where he would fish and grow food along the Merrimack River
Dave could now be housed in a vacant property belonging to a Quaker group in Concord, New Hampshire
In the meantime, many people across the country and beyond have offered to help Lidstone, either through fundraising or offering him a place to live. Lidstone said he is thankful for all the support. He’s still trying to figure out where he would go next, although he wouldn’t mind staying in New Hampshire, where he’s developed some strong connections.
One proposal under consideration is for him to live on property belonging to the Concord Friends Meeting, a Quaker meeting in Canterbury that’s not far from the cabin site. Lidstone worked on the meetinghouse as it was being constructed in 2010. The congregation would have to agree on the matter.
The property overlooks the Merrimack River.
‘It has certainly occurred to us that here is a neighbor in need,’ said Richard Kleinschmidt, co-clerk of the Quaker meeting, ‘and how can we help him?’