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

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David Lidstone, 81, stands for a photograph near the Merrimack River, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, in Boscawen, N.H. Lidstone, a former hermit in New Hampshire, known to locals as “River Dave,” whose cabin in the woods burned down after nearly three decades on the property that he was ordered to leave, and who received more than $200,000 in donations, has been charged with trespassing there once again. Lidstone still disputes that he is on the property, and was arrested on a trespassing charge on Dec. 14, 2021. He faces a court hearing in March of 2022. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former New Hampshire hermit whose cabin in the woods burned down after he was ordered to leave the property after nearly three decades has been charged with trespassing there once again.

There’s been an outpouring of support for 81-year-old David Lidstone — better known as “River Dave” — since he was jailed in July and accused of squatting on the property, with donations totaling over $200,000.

Lidstone secured temporary housing after his cabin burned down as he figured out where to live next. But he recently returned to the site, turning a shed that hadn’t burned down into a makeshift home.

A fire destroyed the cabin on Aug. 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” after the cabin burned down.

The billionaire CEO of a software company gave the former hermit $180,000 in August to rebuild his cabin in a new location. A spokesperson for Palantir Technologies told the Concord Monitor that CEO Alexander Karp wrote a personal check to Lidstone.

David Lidstone, 81, speaks with reporters during an interview on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Lidstone lived in the woods 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 said he’d been squatting for all those years.

The woodlot where Lidstone lived was just a few miles away from Interstate 93, but it was hidden by the trees. It’s on 73 acres that has been used for timber harvests. The property has been owned by the same family since 1963.

Lidstone has claimed that years ago, the owner gave his word — but not in writing — allowing him to live there. But the current owner sees him as a squatter and wanted to tear down the cabin before the fire.

Current owner Leonard Giles, 86, of South Burlington, Vermont, didn’t 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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