John Edwin Wood resided in Grahamstown for most of his life and was a partner in the merchant firm Wood Brothers. He was interested in all public matters and hence played a role in various institutions, for example, he was a member of the first Divisional Council of Albany for many years; was a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Cape Colony from 1864 to 1867 (when he resigned for health reasons) and again from 1885 to at least 1905; was mayor of Grahamstown in 1865; was a juistice of the peace from 1867; was involved in founding the Grahamstown Public School in the early eighteen-eighties and later served as chairman of its Board of Trustees; served on the committee of the Grahamstown Chamber of Commerce in 1886; was chairman of the Albany General Hospital; and played a leading part in arranging the Grahamstown exhibitions of 1887 and 1898.
Wood's hobbies were gardening and farming, and he owned a large farm in the Cradock district. In October 1882 he became a foundation member and was elected on the first committee of the Grahamstown Horticultural Society. Years later, in 1897, he was elected the first chairman of the Grahamstown and Albany Horticultural Society. In July 1892 he was elected on the committee of the revived Literary, Scientific and Medical Society of Grahamstown, which was responsible for the management of the Albany Museum. He served on the museum committee until at least 1899, when he was elected joint vice-president. In June 1897 he was appointed a member of the Grahamstown Rinderpest Committee, set up to help combat the epidemic that was affecting the whole subcontinent.
By 1899 Wood resided in East London. In that year he presented a collection of stone implements from near that city to the Albany Museum. Included in the collection was a "digging stone" from his farm near Cradock. He might easily be confused with two or three other persons. For example, in 1905 (four years after his death) a Mr J.E. Wood of East London sent his first installment of fossils from a raised beach, including some fine corrals, to the Albany Museum. The next year Mr J.W. Wood - probably an error for either J.E. Wood or J. Wood - presented a good collection of upper Cretaceous fossils from Needs Camp, near East London, to the museum. Another contemporary, John Wood*, also donated stone artefacts and fossils to the Albany Museum.