81-Year-Old Whose Cabin Burned Down After Eviction Hearing Gets Offers to Relocate

An 81-year-old New Hampshire man whose cabin burned down in the hours after his eviction hearing received numerous offers to relocate to a new plot of land after living off the grid for 27 years, the Associated Press reported.

David Lidstone, known locally as "River Dave," lived in the woods near the state's Merrimack River. He was imprisoned on July 15 on a civil contempt sanction after the property owner, Leonard Giles, 86, accused him of squatting and wanted him to leave. Lidstone appeared in court Wednesday to defend himself, and afterward, the cabin burned down in a fire that is being investigated by the state fire marshal's office.

Since then, he has received about 20 offers from New Hampshire, Maine and California to relocate.

"I feel about as good as I ever have in my life," Lidstone told the AP on Sunday. "I live down there in the woods because I like being alone, being away from people, so this publicity is not anything that I'm used to at all."

Lidstone will appear at another court hearing Wednesday and has since been released from jail.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Remains of David Lidstone's Cabin
In this photo provided by the Canterbury (New Hampshire) Fire Department, smoke rises on August 4, 2021, from the remains of a cabin in Canterbury inhabited by 81-year-old David Lidstone, who for 27 years has lived in the woods along the Merrimack River in the small, solar-paneled cabin. Uncredited/Canterbury Fire Department via AP

Lidstone said he's grateful and overwhelmed by fundraising efforts and offers for a place to live.

He said in a phone interview with the AP that he has many friends.

Lidstone lived in the woods in the town of Canterbury. After he was jailed, he was told he'd be released if he agreed to leave the cabin.

He was released Thursday from jail 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.

Lidstone, who is staying with friends, said he tried to go back to the site to collect some things but was told he had to go to police first.

"The main thing I wanted out of the whole thing was my Bible," he said. "Hopefully, Canterbury police took it home....I had the keys to camp and the camp's just ashes. So I have the keys to God's heart, and that's all I got."

The woodlot Lidstone called home was just a few miles from Interstate 93, north of the capital city of Concord. But it was hidden by the trees; it's on 73 acres that have 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.

Lidstone had said a prior owner gave his word years ago that he could live there, but he had nothing in writing. He later disputed that he was even on the property.

"It looks to me like now I may never set foot on that piece of land again," he said.

Still, he wants to be able to prove he was right. He wants to get a surveyor on the property. Another hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Jodie Gedeon, an avid kayaker and advocate for Lidstone, said there's been discussion of setting up a trust for him, in addition to finding him a home. There have been at least 20 offers for him to relocate to another plot of land, from California to Maine.

"So, it's really up to David now," she said. "David, pick where you want to live, and we will get you set up before winter."

Forest in New Hampshire
David Lidstone, 81, whose cabin in the woods in New Hampshire burned down as he faced eviction, has received many offers to relocate. Above, a strand of birch trees in a farmer's field at the White Mountain National Forest on July 19, 2020, in Woodstock, New Hampshire. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images