‘River Dave’ vows to stay in jail instead of giving up his cabin on someone else’s property

CANTERBURY, N.H. — A man, known simply as “River Dave,” has lived in the same cabin in the woods for 27 years, but now, the rightful owner of the property on which the home sits wants use of his land back.

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River Dave’s real name is David Lidstone. He built his cabin on the banks of the Merrimack River in Canterbury, New Hampshire, The Associated Press reported.

He lives off the grid with the solar panels he installed to provide electricity, the wood he cuts himself for heat and the food he grows himself.

Lidstone lives alone except for his cat and chickens.

But the issue is the land on which his cabin stands is the property of Leonard Giles, and the landowner wants to knock down Lidstone’s home, the Union Leader reported.

Lidstone has refused to vacate the land he’s squatted on for 27 years and has been in jail since July 15. He faces a civil contempt sanction, the AP reported.

He says the cabin is not on Giles’ property, the Union Leader reported.

He says he will stay in jail before he leaves his home.

“You came with your guns. You arrested me, brought me in here. You’ve got all my possessions. You keep ‘em,” he told a judge Wednesday. “I’ll sit here with your uniform on until I rot, sir.”

People who have befriended him over the years call Lidstone a caring guy and are trying to raise money for him.

“He’s just a really, really, big caring guy, and just chooses to live off the grid,” Jodie Gedeon, said, according to the AP. “It really is about humanity. It really is about compassion, empathy ... he’s not hurting anybody.”

While he may not be hurting anyone, the judge overseeing the case said the law is on the side of the landowner, the AP reported.

Lidstone said a previous owner gave him verbal approval to live there years ago, but the current owner, Giles, said no, and that he didn’t even know Lidstone was on the property until community leaders told him about Lidstone in 2015, the AP reported.

Even if Giles would have a change of heart, it’s unlikely that Lidstone could stay.

But there are steps and waivers that could be granted that would allow Lidstone to remain in the cabin, the Union Leader reported.

The structure is on nonresidential land close to the river, town officials said, the newspaper reported.

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