For 27 years, 81-year-old David Lidstone lived in the New Hampshire woods along the Merrimack River in a small cabin adorned with solar panels. He grew his own food, cut his own firewood, and tended to his pets and chickens.
Lidstone claims that a previous owner gave his word—but nothing in writing—allowing him to live there. But in the eyes of the current owner, he was a squatter.
A squatter is someone who occupies a property with no legal title or lease. That’s a form of stealing. But even so, it can be difficult for a rightful owner to have a squatter removed.
Merrimack County Judge Andrew Schulman says the law was clearly on the landowner’s side.
“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 said at a hearing. “But there’s a lot of weight on the other side . . . 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.”
Property owner Leonard Giles didn’t know Lidstone was there until 2015. Squatting wasn’t the only problem. Lidstone’s dwelling violated zoning and environmental regulations, and there was no access to a road.
Neither side could come to an agreement. Lidstone remained defiant. He was jailed for a short time as he refused to leave the property.
Then his cabin burned down. He was released from jail after a judge ruled that he would have less incentive to return now that the cabin is gone.
In the meantime, many people have offered to help Lidstone, either through fundraising or finding him a place to live. Now “River Dave” says he doesn’t think he can go back to being a hermit.
“Maybe the things I’ve been trying to avoid are the things that I really need in life,” says Lidstone, who drifted apart from his family. “I’ve never loved anybody in my life. And I shocked myself because I hadn’t realized that. And that’s why I was a hermit. Now I can see love being expressed that I never had before.”
River Dave’s story echoes our own. As fallen humans, we despise our authority, God, and His law. We separate ourselves from God. We don’t know how to love. Yet God shows us love. (Romans 5:6-11)
Maybe along with a new home, Lidstone will find a new life.
Why? God created humans for relationship with Himself, and when that relationship is broken, it damages other relationships, such as with other humans, one’s self, or authority.
Pray: For those who lack meaningful relationship with other humans and with God, the source of love.