Fire destroys cabin of New Hampshire man forced out of woods

CANTERBURY, N.H. — For nearly three many years, 81-year-old David Lidstone has lived within the woods of New Hampshire alongside the Merrimack River in a small cabin adorned with photo voltaic panels. He has grown his personal meals, minimize his personal firewood, and tended to his pets and chickens.

But his off-the-grid existence has been challenged in court docket by a property proprietor who says he’s been squatting for all these years. And to make Lidstone’s issues worse, his cabin was burned to the bottom Wednesday afternoon in a blaze that’s being investigated by native authorities.

Lidstone, or “River Dave” as he’s recognized by boaters and kayakers, was jailed July 15 on a civil contempt sanction. He was advised he’d be launched if he agreed to depart the cabin, however he has stayed put.

“You came with your guns, you arrested me, brought me in here, you’ve got all my possessions. You keep ’em,” Lidstone advised a choose in a court docket look Wednesday morning. “I’ll sit here with your uniform on until I rot, sir.”

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., growing his own food and cutting his firewood.
This undated picture offered by Jodie Gedeon exhibits the shack that David Lidstone, 81, has constructed and lived in for practically three many years within the woods of Canterbury, N.H., rising his personal meals and slicing his firewood.
AP

Lidstone is accused of squatting for 27 years within the cabin on non-public property in Canterbury. The picket, two-level A-frame cabin had a small, cluttered kitchen with pots hanging from the ceiling, some home equipment, and curtains on the home windows. His porch had a footstool with a base made of stacked beer cans. He transformed a wooden range right into a beehive. He hooked up lights, a mirror and a pulley for a clothesline to logs supporting the cabin. There had been piles of firewood.

Nearby was a gravel path resulting in vegetable backyard plots outlined by logs and a few berry bushes. Lidstone received his water from a stream.

In court docket, Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Andrew Schulman agreed that Lidstone wasn’t hurting anybody, however stated the legislation was clearly on the landowner’s aspect.

“You’re doing your own thing in the ‘Live Free or Die’ state, so there’s a lot of sympathy to you for that,” he stated. “But there’s a lot of weight on the other side of the balance sheet, and not just about what the (landowner) wants to do with the land, but the weight I feel to uphold the judgment of the court and the rule of law.”

Jodie Gedeon, an avid kayaker who befriended Lidstone about 20 years in the past, had been working with different supporters to assist him, together with organizing a petition drive and accumulating cash to cowl property taxes.

“I’m devastated,” she stated when she discovered in regards to the hearth.

In this undated photo provided by Jodie Gedeon, David Lidstone, 81, smiles in the woods of Canterbury, N.H. Lidstone has lived in the woods along the Merrimack River for nearly three decades  in a shack, growing his own food and cutting his firewood.
In this undated picture offered by Jodie Gedeon, David Lidstone, 81, smiles within the woods of Canterbury, N.H. Lidstone has lived within the woods alongside the Merrimack River for practically three many years in a shack, rising his personal meals and slicing his firewood.
AP

“He’s just a really, really, big caring guy, and just chooses to live off the grid,” she stated in an interview final week. “It really is about humanity, it really is about compassion, empathy … he’s not hurting anybody.”

Gedeon and different supporters got here out to a city choose board assembly on Monday. Board members had stated the city at the moment has no standing within the property dispute.

But even when there have been a solution to permit Lidstone to remain, it will be an uphill battle. His residence was in violation of native and state zoning and environmental rules, and there was no entry to a street.

“You guys are in a quandary. So are we,” selectman Robert Steenson stated.

The woodlot Lidstone referred to as residence was just some miles away from Interstate 93. But it was hidden by the timber; it’s on 73 acres that’s been used for timber harvests. The property has been owned by the identical household since 1963. There aren’t any plans presently to develop it.

In this photo provided by the Canterbury (New Hampshire) Fire Department, smoke rises Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, from the burnt remains of a cabin  in Canterbury, N.H., inhabited by 81-year-old David Lidstone, who for 27 years has lived in the woods of New Hampshire along the Merrimack River in the once small, solar-paneled cabin.
In this picture offered by the Canterbury (New Hampshire) Fire Department, smoke rises Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, from the burnt stays of a cabin in Canterbury, N.H., inhabited by 81-year-old David Lidstone, who for 27 years has lived within the woods of New Hampshire alongside the Merrimack River within the as soon as small, solar-paneled cabin.
AP

The proprietor of the land had been looking for to tear down the cabin earlier than the hearth.

Lidstone has claimed that years in the past, the proprietor gave his phrase — however nothing in writing — permitting him to stay there. But within the eyes of the present proprietor, he’s a squatter and must go.

Property proprietor Leonard Giles, 86, of South Burlington, Vermont, didn’t even know Lidstone was there till the city administrator discovered out in 2015 and advised him, expressing concern “with regard to the solid and septic waste disposal and the potential zoning violations created by the structure,” in response to Giles’ criticism in 2016.

Lidstone, a bearded, small-framed, spritely man, has resisted efforts to depart since a choose issued an order for him to vacate in 2017. Following that, either side had tried to succeed in some kind of settlement for him, however had been unsuccessful, in response to court docket paperwork.

The choose urged Wednesday that Giles and city officers work with a mediator, however Giles’ lawyer stated the logistics could be too daunting.

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., growing his own food and cutting his firewood.
This undated picture offered by Jodie Gedeon exhibits the shack that David Lidstone, 81, has constructed and lived in for practically three many years within the woods of Canterbury, N.H., rising his personal meals and slicing his firewood.
AP

The huge bulk of Lidstone’s private gadgets had been faraway from the cabin earlier than the hearth, Giles’ legal professional Lisa Snow Wade stated Wednesday night time. Several outbuildings remained, and no animals had been discovered, both working round or deceased, Canterbury Fire Chief Michael Gamache stated.

Lidstone, who doesn’t have an legal professional, insisted that his cabin is a searching and fishing camp, not a house. He additionally argued that Giles doesn’t personal the property however is being pressured by the city.

“He’s a heck of a nice old man, I’ve talked with him a couple of times. This is not his fault, this is not my fault,” he stated on the listening to. “It’s lying, cheating corrupt judges like you that are stepping on little people like me. But I’m telling you, sir, you step on me, I’m going to bite your ankle.”

Before the hearth, Lidstone could possibly be launched if one of three issues occurred: he agreed to depart, the cabin was demolished by Giles, or 30 days had handed since he was jailed. Another listening to was scheduled for subsequent week, however Lidstone’s standing wasn’t instantly clear.

Gamache stated the cabin “had mostly collapsed upon itself” as firefighters arrived in an off-road utility car 2 miles into the woods. He stated the State Fire Marshal’s Office has been requested to analyze the trigger of the hearth.

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., growing his own food and cutting his firewood.
This undated picture offered by Jodie Gedeon exhibits the shack that David Lidstone, 81, has constructed and lived in for practically three many years within the woods of Canterbury, N.H., rising his personal meals and slicing his firewood.
AP

Lidstone hasn’t had every other contact with legislation enforcement, not like the case of a man in Maine referred to as the “North Pond Hermit,” who additionally lived within the woods for practically three many years and pleaded responsible in 2013 to a number of housebreaking and theft expenses.

Over the years, Lidstone, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a father of 4 who has made cash as a woodsman, has been recognized to ask kayakers and boaters into his residence, sharing tales about his life within the wild.

Lidstone’s resolution to stay within the woods is “exactly the lifestyle he wants,” stated his brother, Vincent Lidstone, 77, of Lafayette, Georgia.

“What they’re doing to him isn’t right for anybody, whether he’s my brother or anybody’s brother,” he stated. “He’s 81 years old. Leave him alone.”

Vincent Lidstone stated he misplaced contact together with his brother by way of the years, however described how the 2 of them and a cousin loved spending time outdoor. They grew up in Wilton, Maine.

“We lived in the woods,” he stated. “We camped, fishing, hunting. The three of us did everything together for a lot of years.”

It’s unclear the place Lidstone would go. Vincent Lidstone stated he doesn’t have the sources to assist him. The Associated Press reached two of his three sons, who stated they haven’t been in contact with their father lately. His daughter didn’t reply to a message looking for remark.

Before the hearth, Gedeon had stated the matter hasn’t been mentioned by her group but.

“We want to see him be able to live out his remaining years where he is,” she stated.

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