CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A hermit known as River Dave — whose cabin in the New Hampshire woods burned down after he had lived on the property for nearly three decades and was ordered to leave — Co found a new home in Maine.
David Ludstone, 82, has installed windows and is working to install a fireplace on his rustic three-room cabin, which he said is on land he bought.
“The foundation needs repair work,” Lidstone, who received more than $200,000 in donations after the fire, said in a phone interview Monday. “It’s just an old camp, but I enjoy working.”
Ludstone, who grew up in Maine, declined to say where he lives or provide a contact for the landlord. A search of the Maine County Register of Deeds did not show any recent transactions involving Lidstone, but a cousin confirmed he had moved to Maine, and a Facebook post of a family member in Lidstone’s new home. There were pictures.
“He’s working on getting it together, clearing the land, and planting gardens, and he’s got some chickens. He’s moving along,” said Lidstone’s cousin, Horace Clark of Vermont.
Lidstone said he had to leave Canterbury, New Hampshire, in 2016 because of a dispute with a different landowner over a piece of forest near the Merrimack River that Lidstone called home for 27 years. A judge ordered him to vacate in 2017 after the landowner, Leonard Giles, sued him, and another judge recently ruled that Lidstone would be fined daily if he didn’t move. A fine of $500 will be imposed.
There has been a lot of delay in the case. Apart from the pandemic, Lidstone did not always appear in court, and he was in and out of jail as he resisted the injunction.
It was also difficult to serve Lidstone with a notice to appear in court. There is no road access to the property, which is approximately one and a half miles (2.4 km) into the forest. In January, a process server slipped, fell down an embankment and injured his leg while trying to reach Lidstone, according to a motion filed by Giles’ attorney.
In March, a judge said Lidstone would face daily fines if he did not leave the area by April 11. The judge ruled that Lidstone must also pay some of Giles’ legal fees. Separately, Lidstone faces charges of trespassing in relation to the property.
Giles, 87, of South Burlington, Vermont, died in July. It was not immediately clear whether his death changed the status of the case. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
Lidstone said he was saddened to hear Giles had died. “I had nothing against the old man,” he said.
But he seems to be embracing his new life.
“I have all kinds of friends here,” he said. “I have friends every weekend, all summer.”
Last August, while Lidstone was in jail over a property dispute, his cabin, which contained solar panels, burned to the ground as it was being demolished at Giles’ request. The local fire chief said the fire was accidental.
Lidstone agreed to collect his remaining possessions. He had gotten temporary housing because he had figured out where to live next—he had offers—and he was sure he couldn’t go back as a mobster. But late last year, he returned to live in a shed on the property that survived the fire, prompting further legal action.
“Sometimes, you have to stand up for what’s right,” he said in January.
Court records say the undeveloped property has been in the Giles family since 1963 and is used for logging.
Lidstone, who represented himself in court, claimed that years earlier, the current owner’s father had given his word – but nothing in writing – to allow him to live there. He also disputed whether he had been on the property before.